In his Saturday, September 20, afternoon speech to the 400 people rallying at the Indiana State House, Rev. Barber said he was told by his son, an environmental physicist, that if he ever got lost in mountainous territory he should walk to higher ground. This is necessary, Barber reported, because in the lowlands snakes congregate but if one climbs above the “snake line” snakes, being cold-blooded creatures, cannot live.
Referring to the snake line metaphor in an earlier speech Barber declared:
“There are some snakes out here. There are some low-down policies out here. There’s some poison out here. Going backwards on voting rights, that’s below the snake line. Going backwards on civil rights, that’s below the snake line. Hurting people just because they have a different sexuality, that’s below the snake line. Stomping on poor people just because you’ve got power, that’s below the snake line. Denying health care to the sick and keeping children from opportunity, that’s below the snake line” (Dave Johnson, “Let’s Get Our Politics Above the Snake Line,” Campaign for America’s Future, July 22, 2014).
Rev. Barber urged the newly formed Indiana Moral Mondays coalition to “go to higher ground,” where poverty is ended, everybody can vote, children can be educated, the sick can be healed, and everyone is respected.
A lot of interesting e-mails from faculty and students since yesterday's post/poll, for which my thanks. A few notable points. U.S. philosopher at a ranked PGR program:
Even supposing the polls are not being jobbed, which I'm not sure we can suppose, I'd expect them to reflect a reporting bias, since the mediocre, the incompetent, the internet ax grinders, and the angry will likely be MUCH more likely to vote than the functional rank and file of the profession, a high percentage of whom use the PGR in advising students.
Be a great shame to lose PGR, but I can easily see why you would be sick of this shit.
A junior philosopher in the U.K.:
Please continue with the PGR — it’s a great resource! I found it invaluable as a prospective graduate student and jobseeker. There is nothing else like it. The fact is, if there is no 2014 PGR, prospective graduate students will simply carry on using the 2011 PGR as they do currently. But I’m sure they would find an update extremely helpful.
I thought you might appreciate a supportive email more than a poll vote. I don’t think a poll is necessarily a good way to settle the issue. The PGR is always going to create lots of aggrieved parties who have nothing to gain from it and would rather see it disappear. If you keep it going, do it for the next generation of graduate students, who probably won’t vote in the poll but do have a lot to gain from the survey.
From a graduate student in the US:
I wanted to personally express my support for continuing the PGR (and for your more general project of calling out intellectual frauds). I graduated from an un-prestigious department** in a particularly un-prestigious university, and the PGR was crucial, for a variety of reasons, to my success in gaining admittance to a top program.
If you decide to post this, please sign me as "Anonymous Graduate Student at a Top-5 Program." (Not a courageous move, I know, but there is so much groupthink among your most recent critics, it would probably be a bad professional decision to be publicly named in support).
**(which is not to say that I didn't have great professors from whom I learned quite a bit)
From a U.S. philosopher teaching at an undergraduate university:
I implore you to continue with the PGR, the recent polls notwithstanding. I understand that some departments do not like the PGR, but as you have noted the PGR exists for prospective students (i.e., not specific departments in the rankings). In addition to the peer-rankings, there is much useful information in the PGR. For example, I often direct my students to read the "Realistic Perspective on Graduate Study" before they apply. Also, the breakdown by specialties is invaluable for students awash in information with no way to organize it. Further, departmental advisors/mentors cannot possibly keep up with shifting faculty and particular strengths of departments. As a philosopher of science, I can confidently recommend programs in that field; however, were it not for the PGR I'd have little in the way of recommendations for students considering programs in, say, ethics or analytic metaphysics (aside from the obvious top programs). I always recommend that my students start with the PGR and then learn more about the programs and, most importantly, contact graduate students in programs that interest them.
No doubt, you are receiving many messages such as these, and I hope that they will carry more weight than the polls, which are subject to manipulation. I cringe at the idea that those who smear you and the PGR could possibly be encouraging or coercing their undergrads to vote down the PGR. I also understand that the PGR is a headache for you, but it provides a very important service. I consulted it myself when I applied to graduate school in 2000 and 2002.
From a graduate student in the U.S. at a non-top 50 PhD program:
In light of the ongoing smear campaign against yourself and the PGR, I would like to take the opportunity to let you know that I sincerely hope that you will not give in to any pressure that you're receiving and forego publishing this year's rankings. As a current Ph.D. candidate, I can personally say that the PGR was extraordinarily helpful to me during the time that I was applying to schools and weighing offers. Students, like myself, coming from small universities often have little to no guidance on how to approach Ph.D. applications, and, so far as I can tell, the PGR is the most comprehensive and transparent guide to the process available. I, for one, appreciate all of the work that has gone into publishing the PGR, and I think that it has been a valuable asset to the profession. I just want to offer you some encouragement, and I truly hope that the outcome of your online poll does not dissuade you from continuing to offer this service to aspiring professional philosophers like myself.
Comments are open for those who wish to weigh in on the PGR issue; in the current environment, you may post anonymously, but choose a distinctive moniker; please do include a valid e-mail address, which will not appear.
Something very odd is happening with your poll. It appears that someone is monkeying with the system somehow and upping the number of No votes. Every time I check it, states that formerly were listed as voting Yes overall are switched to 100% No.
I suspect the motivation for this is to make the upcoming publication of your valuable Report seem to be a minority project when it is anything but that.
I hope that you will not allow the compromised poll to tarnish the reputation of the 2014 PGR, and that you do not allow your very useful survey to have its credibility ruined by these antagonists. They are already becoming quite a nuisance without this.
And a grad student wrote:
I am currently a PhD student in a ranked program in Australasia. I'm worried that the online smear campaigns against you and the PGR, along with the poll you just posted, aren't going to accurately reflect the real value of PGR.
I completed my BA in philosophy at a tiny private school. The PGR was an incredibly useful resource when it came to applying to graduate studies. If anything, it exposed me to a lot of programs I probably would not have known about (or I would have needed to spend much more time researching programs). Your critics don't seem to give philosophy students enough credit: Students don't take everything you post on Leiter Reports as God's truth. And we don't take the PGR as an authoritative ranking of programs in every possible way. We're smart enough to realise that there are other methods of ranking and subtle nuances the PGR might not account for. But none of this changes the fact that, on the whole, the PGR constitutes an invaluable resource for students considering graduate school (especially for those coming from smaller isolated schools).
I could elaborate further but I won't take up anymore of your time. Whether or not you continue with the PGR, you should know that many students have found (and will find it if you continue) quite helpful. It's troubling that the campaigns to end the PGR seem to be largely from professors, and not from the students it's discontinuation would negatively impact the most.
So here's a different poll service, which in the past has done better at blocking strategic voting. Here it is. Rank "Yes" #1 if you want the 2014 PGR to go forward; rank "No" #1 if you do not want it to go forward. We'll see how the two come out.
I've posted a lot recently about how busy I am with the PGR. That's important context to the following.
Recently, one blogger has taken to policing my tweets and comments on blogs, in order to find material she can take out of context to try to embarrass me. (I had previously worked closely with this philosopher in assisting a victim of sexual harassment in transferring to a more civilized program, but apparently trying to help victims of actual misconduct is now less important than finding ways to humiliate someone who had the audacity to express concerns about due process in the Ludlow case, to host a discussion of the Colorado Site Visit report (after the Feminist Philosophers blog shut down all discussion of it), and to disagree on various occasions with FP philosophers on variousissues). This is juvenile, but par for the course in cyberspace.
Now two other philosophers (one of whom is closely allied with the first, and both of whom are opposed to the PGR, about which more in a moment) have posted portions of e-mails I sent to two faculty who had attacked me, but again stripped of all context. They even claim, falsely,that I made a "threat that 'things will get around'". (In fact, it was the person I wrote to who made that threat, not me, but concern for facts and context do not loom large in this pathetic affair.) They did not even have the courtesy to ask about any pertinent context before posting the e-mails.
I will supply the context here.
During the summer, after I criticized some misleading job placement ranking data, Carrie Jenkins (British Columbia) took to the web to make clear that in her view such criticism was not permissible in our profession and that, therefore, she viewed my blog post as "unprofessional and unethical," and that, in consequence, she was no longer going to treat me as a "normal or representative member of" the profession. (I learned about Jenkins's post attacking me from Catarina Dutilh Novaes.) On social media, Jenkins had long impressed me as a bit of a "sanctimonious ass" (as I said in the e-mail), and this was certainly par for that course. I sent her a sharp and derisive e-mail about her blogged threats, to which she never replied. But I did wonder, as one might imagine, in what ways she was not going to "treat me as a normal" member of the profession. But apparently our profession is so degraded that if one philosopher declares in public that she will not treat Brian Leiter "as a normal member of the profession," that's OK, and I'm supposed to say nothing.
Noelle McAfee took her PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, and was on the job market when I was placement director there. Unlike some of those on the current crusade, I am not going to disclose more details, but suffice it to say there is a lot of missing context. I will discuss here only what is already in the public record. Since getting her PhD, McAfee, who teaches now at Emory, has been a member of SPEP, including its "Advocacy Committee" (a Committee created to counteract the PGR), and has for many years made false and misleading claims about me and the PGR. I have corresponded with her off and on for years, asking her to cut it out. The straw that broke the camel's back, however, came earlier this year, when yet again she took to the Internet to lie about me and the PGR; the lies or (more charitably) misrepresentations included claiming that (1) there was a 39% drop in the number of programs that participated in the 2011 PGR compared to 2009 (McAfee can't count); (2) the 2011 PGR failed to disclose the departments that participated in the survey (McAfee apparently could not find her way around the PGR site either in order to locate the lists); (3) Emory and other departments are "refusing" to participate in the PGR (some departments request to be included, but others, including Emory, have been included at various intervals--and Emory did, in fact, once request inclusion, contrary to McAfee's false assertion); (4) the PGR reflects a sexist bias against departments with lots of women (a claim not supported by any careful analysis of the data); and (5) various false statements of fact about my professional situation. Then it turned out that, under a pseudonym, McAfee was vandalizing my Wikipedia page. As I said to her, "I am a philosopher, but I’m also a lawyer, and I’ve grown tired of malevolent misrepresentations about me and the PGR like yours. You are on notice and I hope you get the message." In fact, she got the message, since she revised many of the false statements of fact.
This is how the law works: if you say false things intended to damage someone's reputation, you have acted illegally. U.S. law gives more cover for defamers than elsewhere, but even here there are limits. In the future, I can have my lawyer send these e-mails, but I frankly thought it more gentle to write myself.
Those who posted the e-mails, without any of the preceding context, raise this as an objection to me as the "editor of the PGR." Well, I am the editor of the PGR; I am also one of the leading Nietzsche scholars in the world, a law professor, a New Yorker with limited toleration for the fools our profession breeds, a leading figure in legal philosophy, a leading philosophy blogger, a devoted teacher and mentor (defamation of me has grown so common on this score that I've taken to putting my evaluations on-line), a husband, a son, a father of three, a longstanding opponent of cyber-harassment based on gender and race, and a defender of academic freedom and the rights of everyone from Steven Salaita to John Yoo to speak freely about matters of public concern without state sanction. But those out to attack me now, both those who published the e-mails (without context) and Catarina Novaes, have made clear that this is primarily about the PGR.
So let me be clear: the PGR is a service to students, not to me. For me, it's now nothing more than a headache--both because of all the time it takes, but because it opens me up to slimy attacks by unethical and unprofessional people. It would be in my self-interest to stop publishing the PGR, but it would not be in the interests of students or the profession (well, it would be in the interest of the Emorys and other weak departments for me to stop publishing it). But since those who want to attack me are primarily motivated by the PGR, let me put it to a poll. The next two months of my life would be much more peaceful if I do not do the next PGR. What do readers think? (Sorry, had to repost this due to a technical problem--it was about 50-50 last time--here it is again.)
[Poll closed--with about 3000 votes, it was roughly 56% against, 44% in favor--given the social media campaign to mobilize anti-PGR votes, I'm surprised it was not even more lopsided]
UPDATE: A couple dozen philosophers (many friends or colleagues of Prof. Jenkins), and other longtime PGR opponents, have indicated they will not serve as PGR evaluators to protest my criticism of Prof. Jenkins. (Only a handful of them would have been invited as evaluators anyway.) Like the others, they omit all context, including that Prof. Jenkins targetted me in the first place: I did not send her an e-mail out of the blue. As a commenter "Jean" on the Feminist Philosophers blog put it:
In Leiter’s email to Jenkins you can see what got him riled up is this: “I will not accept or treat those whose behaviour regularly fails to meet these standards as normal or representative members of my profession.” This is not just a pledge to be respectful to others, but a pledge to somehow decommission violators of her norms. Since it does seem to me (from context) that she was primarily thinking of Leiter as a violator, it’s understandable that he takes this personally.
They also repeat the misrepresentation of a Twitter comment, which another philosopher put into circulation. I sent Prof. Jenkins the following letter about that:
Dear Carrie: Laurie Paul and Heidi Lockwood tell me you were upset by the Twitter exchange from the other day. I am genuinely sorry for upsetting you, it was, truly, the opposite of my intention. May I please try to explain what I thought was going on?
Tim Crane and I had a series of back-and-forths on Twitter about the contested Nietzsche review, which he had commissioned for TLS. He needled me, and I needled back. I posted his comment in defense of the review on my Nietzsche blog, and he quipped that I would now call him a charlatan (I told him he was only a charlatan when it came to wine expertise in a separate tweet). You weighed in with a tweet that I took to mean, "Don't worry, Brian calls lots of people charlatans, including me." I thought that was funny and a friendly gesture, so I replied to say, "Well, I did once call you a sanctimonious arse, but never a charlatan, and in any case, I don't dislike you and know there are lots of good things about you." Unfortunately, that's more than 140 characters.
Now as you know several months ago I did send you an intemperate e-mail, which I regret sending, but it was in response to something you had done which really upset me. I read your "pledge" back then (as did Catarina at NewApps, from whom I learned about it) as directed at me and as saying: "I am not going to treat Brian Leiter as a normal member of the profession." I found that very offensive at the time. I should have cooled off for 24 hours, but instead I sent you an intemperate e-mail. I learned you then put it into public circulation, so I took that to be the context of the tweet exchange. Part of what I wanted to convey with the tweet exchange was only that I wasn't annoyed about that earlier incident, and I took the fact that you tweeted what you did to mean you weren’t either.
She did not reply. I do regret my earlier intemperate e-mail, though the context noted above may at least make it explicable.
UPDATE: We presently have over 550 nominated evaluators, and now about two dozen have signed the boycott letter. I would be sorry to lose their input, but given the way the boycott letter sent out by Richard Heeck presented what transpired, I understand and respect their decision, even as I regret it. The actual sequence of events, as I laid it out for a reporter this evening, was clear:
July 1: I posted a sharp critique of some utterly misleading rankings produced by Carolyn Jennings, a tenure-stream faculty member at UC Merced. She quickly started revising it after I called her out.
Later on July 2, Catarina Novaes also joined the criticism, pointing me to the response by Carrie Jenkins, which she characterized, obviously correctly, as “reacting to what many perceived as Brian Leiter’s excessively personalized attack of Carolyn Dicey Jennings’s analysis.”
THE 'SMEAR' CAMPAIGN: A good example of the "smear campaign" aspect of some of what is going on is the false claim promoted by an anonymous website that my targets "recently" have been disproportionately women. In fact, during the exact same time period, far more men than women have come in for criticism, derision, or polemics, including Eric Schliesser, Santiago Zabala, Tom Stern, Matt Drabek, Leon Wieseltier, Dirk Johnson, Ben Cohen, Ed Kazarian, Vince Vitale, William Vallicella, and Mark Oppenheimer, among others (I leave out the 'big names' like Zizek and Niall Ferguson). Why does the smear site mention only one of these men? Because it's purpose is not to inform, but to damage my reputation. I have twice now posted a comment on that site pointing out that there are multiple errors of fact and multiple omissions of fact, and asking the person responsible to e-mail me from their pseudonymous e-mail address so that I may supply a document listing the errors and omissions with hyperlinks. The site owner has not approved my comment nor contacted me, again, for the obvious reasons: the purpose of the site is not to provide information, but to smear me. (That its so-called "resources" include any reference to Paul Campos makes that even more plain.)
Similarly--and contrary to Richard Heck’s latest misrepresentations (which he’s apparently been e-mailing out to the world)--when Noelle McAfee threatened that my e-mails to her would “get around” (a threat she has now made good on), the only thing I told her would “get around” is that I believed she had a personal vendetta against me because she felt I hadn’t done enough for her back in the late 1990s when I was one of the placement directors. That personal vendetta subsequently became a professional one as she became involved with SPEP and its Advocacy Committee.
Fortunately, the smears have receded, and there have been more substantive discussion of the actual issues by Simon May, Alex Rosenberg, and others, for which I'm grateful.
THE 'PGR AURA': The worry that some have, as I understand it, is that "the PGR aura" gives my criticisms a weight and importance they would otherwise not have. Simon May (Florida State) gave the most cogent statement I've seen from any of the boycotters, though in my view the weaknesses of his argument are also illuminating (more on that in a moment).
Here is what I take to be the core issue. I respond aggressively with only a miniscule fraction of my critics out there in the world. (The Internet is awash with literally thousands of criticisms of my rankings, my views, and me, and 99% of their authors have never heard from me--contrary to those falsely asserting a "pattern" of my targetting "vulnerable" people--even in the cases at hand, the "targets" are tenured professors at major research institutions. This is one of many reasons why the description of any of this as "bullying" is absurd). Do such aggressive responses raise questions about the work I have done for many years as editor of the PGR? Simon May thinks it does. He writes:
[T]he point is that Prof. Leiter’s status as the editor of the de facto or quasi-official rankings of philosophy departments indicates the community’s endorsement of his behaviour as within the bounds of acceptability.
I would have thought that participation in the PGR indicates that people think I and the Advisory Board have done a good job running it as a useful service for students and departments. It constitutes an endorsement of my extramural statements to critics as little as it constitutes an endorsement of my atheism, my left politics, or my contempt for Jacques Derrida and Ayn Rand. Perhaps, though, "endorsement" is the wrong word: the issue is whether participation in the PGR constitutes "toleration" of conduct that should not be tolerated?
A lot of Simon's case turns, as he correctly acknowledges, on his judgment that my e-mails were "abysmal and utterly unacceptable." This is strong language, melodramatic in my view, but perhaps not in the view of others. There are no doubt great differences of style and temperment between me and Simon, partly due to culture, to professional background, and to life experiences. I do not think anything I did was "abysmal and utterly unacceptable," even as I regret, as I've said repeatedly, sending the e-mail to Prof. Jenkins. (Although I would have written them slightly differently in retrospect, I do not regret the thrust of the other e-mails to a malevolent and persistently dishonest critic over a period of many years, one who has repeatedly walked the line on defamation and who even took to vandalizing my Wikipedia page under a pseudonym.) But I understand why some people would prefer I not send intemperate e-mails or assert what I take to be my legal rights so aggressively. I will no doubt do it less often in the future, and think more carefully before doing so. (I am hopeful that if I step down from the PGR, there will be fewer outbursts directed my way, and so less need for any kind of redress.)
As things stand, as uncontested PGR editor, Prof. Leiter has relatively free rein to act in as belligerent a manner as he might wish towards any member of the community.
This is also not true. I have "free rein to act in as belligerent manner as" I might wish because I am a citizen of a free society, in which I can speak my mind. Simon's worry, I take it, is that the "PGR aura" enhances the effect of a belligerent critique. I am not sure it does, but maybe there are cases where it does.
The mere knowledge that he is very safely embedded in a social network of esteem and approval, and that he has an unparalleled ability to dictate the content of discourse about the profession, inhibits public assertion of anything likely to raise his ire.
Anyone who spends a few minutes on Google searching discussions of me and the PGR can quickly confirm that this is false: the Internet has been awash with public discourse critical of me, the PGR, my views of philosophy, and on and on for many years. My "social network of esteem and approval" does not insulate me from mountains of criticism. It could still be true, and perhaps this is Simon's real point, that "the PGR aura" mitigates or lessens the amount of criticism that would otherwise occur. This may also be true, neither Simon nor I know. Whether this is a bad thing, of course, depends on the kind of criticism that is not aired. Given the criticism that is aired, regularly, some of which is quite vicious despite the PGR aura, I am skeptical.
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.
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)