“Julius Caesar!” He looked up with genuine astonishment. He was a philosopher. Why on earth would anyone ask him to read a dissertation about Julius Caesar?
“Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.”
“Oh. Right.” As though that made it clearer.
The young woman who’d cornered him in his office was a complete stranger. He’d never laid eyes on me, nor I on him. Doubtless I was wearing a leather mini skirt and high brown boots, my usual garb back then.
My take on the play was vaguely philosophical— very vaguely. I had ideas about Shakespeare and 17th century nominalism, though no philosophical context to fit them into, nor any other context, actually, self-directed as I was, the usual experience for women graduate students at Columbia those days. The Shakespearean hadn’t liked my topic, said it was “too modern and psychological,” so I approached the Miltonist with the idea, who said, uh, no, it would be awkward for him to direct a Shakespeare dissertation. I went away and came back a year later with a completed dissertation, throwing myself on the mercy of the Miltonist, who said, okay, okay, he’d try to set up a committee, there was a theater person who might read it, and a nice young assistant professor who more or less had to say yes since he didn’t have tenure, and he suggested that I talk to Arthur Danto. And that was my committee. They more or less smuggled me out the back door, unbeknownst to the Shakespearean (who found out years later, after I was comfortably ensconced on the west coast).
So that’s what I was doing in Danto’s office that spring morning, with my request. He didn’t have to agree, he was an eminence, even then; I wasn’t his student, and the dissertation was very long. But he came through.
After the dissertation defense, I stood outside in the hall, Philosophy Hall, waiting for the verdict. The committee filed out, shook my hand, congratulated me, handed me a few pages of typed notes, and went away.
Everyone except Danto. He stood there, I stood there, an uneasy moment, then he said, “By the way, do you have a job?”
“A job?” I had, as a matter of fact, just lost the adjunct position I’d been counting on to keep me in New York for the next few years. It was 1974; the job market had crashed.
“Would you like a letter?”
“Like… a recommendation? Sure, that’d be great.” It had never occurred to me to ask, I was that clueless.
He needn’t have offered—nobody else did. And he wrote not just once but many times through the years, as I applied for grants, fellowships, positions. He wrote a good letter; I never saw it but I was told it was eloquent. It opened doors.
Those were the only times we met. We corresponded when he was writing for The Nation and, for a time, so was I; we said, the next time I was in New York, we’d get together, etc., though we never did. But I remember him more fondly and vividly than I do almost any of my Columbia professors, as the one who had a sense that there was a person on the line, a person who might need a job.
I think that’s what we take from our teachers, finally, not so much information imparted as a sense of who they are.
Speaking of the importance of the humanities, this program features, among others, philosopher Debra Satz from Stanford, where 45% of the faculty are in the humanities, but only 18% of undergraduates are humanities majors.
A more detailed story about the former adjunct French professor at Dusquesne, whose death generated substantial national attention. As one might have suspected, the story had more complexities than the original report suggested, though the complexities make it more, not less, tragic. One thing not in dispute: Dusquesne has resisted efforts by its adjunct faculty to unionize. Shame on the university!
All over the world, as governments retreat from their traditional duty to foster the common good and reconceive of themselves as mere managers of national economies, universities have been coming under pressure to turn themselves into training schools equipping young people with the skills required by a modern economy.
You argue - cogently - that allowing the transient needs of the economy to define the goals of higher education is a misguided and shortsighted policy: indispensable to a democratic society - indeed, to a vigorous national economy - is a critically literate citizenry competent to explore and interrogate the assumptions behind the paradigms of national and economic life reigning at any given moment. Without the ability to reflect on ourselves, you argue, we run a perennial risk of relaxing into complacent stasis. And only the neglected humanities can provide a training in such critical literacy.
I hope that your book will be high on the reading list of those politicians busy reshaping higher education in the light of national priorities, as well as of those university administrators to whom the traditional humanities have become alien ground.....But alas, I do not believe that your hopes and mine have much chance of being realised.
There are two main reasons for my pessimism. The first is that you somewhat underestimate, in my opinion, the ideological force driving the assault on the independence of universities in the (broadly conceived) West. This assault commenced in the 1980s as a reaction to what universities were doing in the 1960s and 1970s, namely, encouraging masses of young people in the view that there was something badly wrong with the way the world was being run and supplying them with the intellectual fodder for a critique of Western civilisation as a whole.
The campaign to rid the academy of what was variously diagnosed as a leftist or anarchist or anti-rational or anti-civilisational malaise has continued without let-up for decades, and has succeeded to such an extent that to conceive of universities any more as seedbeds of agitation and dissent would be laughable....
This leads me to the second reason why I fail to share your optimistic faith that the tide may yet be turned. A certain phase in the history of the university, a phase taking its inspiration from the German Romantic revival of humanism, is now, I believe, pretty much at its end. It has come to an end not just because the neoliberal enemies of the university have succeeded in their aims, but because there are too few people left who really believe in the humanities and in the university built on humanistic grounds, with philosophical, historical and philological studies as its pillars.
You argue that only the faculties of humanities are equipped to teach students the critical literacy that allows a culture to continually renew itself. But I envisage a telling question will be asked of you: even if we grant that critical literacy is as important as you claim, do students really need to know about Hesiod and Petrarch, about Francis Bacon and Jean-Paul Sartre, about the Boxer Rebellion and the Thirty Years War, to attain a sufficient competence in such literacy? Can you not simply design a pair of one-semester courses - courses in which all undergraduates, no matter what their career track, will be required to enrol - one course to be entitled "Reading and Writing", in which students will be trained to dissect arguments and write good expository prose; and the other to be entitled "Great Ideas", in which they will be briefed on the main currents of world thought from Ancient Egypt to the present? A pair of courses like that will not require an entire faculty of humanities behind them, merely a school of critical literacy staffed with bright young instructors....
I could not be more strongly on your side in your defence of the humanities and of the university as the home of free enquiry....But in the end, I believe, you will have to make a stand. You will have to say: we need free enquiry because freedom of thought is good in itself. We need institutions where teachers and students can pursue unconstrained the life of the mind because such institutions are, in ways that are difficult to pin down, good for all of us: good for the individual and good for society.
Having just come back from a very enjoyable day-and-a-half at Davidson College (which has a beautiful campus, by the way, about a half-hour from Charlotte, North Carolina), I was particularly struck by how many students turned out for a talk on Nietzsche on a Tuesday evening (and how many asked questions, and good questions), and also by the College's commitment to humanistic studies, as evidenced not only by the strong philosophy faculty (about which I had known prior to visiting), but also by the size and quality of the German department, an area sadly neglected by some colleges, even though it is central to a serious program of humanistic studies, given the centrality of the German language, and German scholarship and culture, to every field in the humanities. I was particularly impressed by a student who told me she had transferred from a well-known private research university to Davidson because she felt there was too much pre-professional pressure at her former school, and she wanted to be in an environment more supportive of humanistic study for its own sake. So kudos to Davidson College!
Alex Rosenberg (Duke), a leading philosopher of economic and biology, shared the following apt thoughts about this year's unusual prize:
So, the Swedish Central Bank's ersatz Nobel Prize for “economic science” gets awarded to a guy who says markets are efficient and there are no bubbles—Eugene Fama (“I don’t know what a credit bubble means. I don’t even know what a bubble means. These words have become popular. I don’t think they have any meaning”—New Yorker, 2010), along with another economist—Robert Shiller, who says that markets are pretty much nothing but bubbles, “Most of the action in the aggregate stock market is bubbles.” (NY Times, October 19, 2013) Imagine the parallel in physics or chemistry or biology—the prize is split between Einstein and Bohr for their disagreement about whether quantum mechanics is complete, or Pauling and Crick for their dispute about whether the gene is a double helix or a triple, or between Gould and Dawkins for their rejection of one another’s views about the units of selection. In these disciplines Nobel Prizes are given to reward a scientist who has established something every one else can bank on. In economics, “Not so much.” This wasn’t the first time they gave the award to an economist who says one thing and another one who asserts its direct denial. Cf. Myrdal and Hayek in 1974. What’s really going on here? Well, Shiller gave the game away in a NY Times interview when he said of Fama, “It’s like having a friend who is a devout believer of another religion.” Actually it’s probably two denominations in the same religion.
A colleague at CUNY has sent to me the statement by the faculty union President, Barbara Bowen:
The CUNY Administration has developed a draft “Policy on Expressive Activity,” to be considered for adoption sometime after January 1 by the CUNY Board of Trustees. You can read it here. The draft policy proposes severe limitations on how the fundamental and distinct freedoms of speech and assembly may be exercised at the City University. Anyone who knows the importance of freedom of expression at CUNY or who understands the essential character of a university has a stake in whether the policy is adopted.
Proposed on the heels of faculty opposition to Pathways and student protests about tuition increases, the policy reads as an attempt to silence dissent and to stifle protest before it starts.
As drafted, the proposed “Policy on Expressive Activity” goes beyond existing regulations on individual and collective action at CUNY. It would ban demonstrations from the interior of CUNY buildings, forcing demonstrators into “designated areas”; it would require 24 hours’ advance notice of demonstrations involving as few as 25 people; it would limit the distribution of “materials” on campus to areas designated by the administration; and it would give college presidents or their designees the sole power to determine if a demonstration is “disruptive”—and to call the police onto campus to stop it. “Freedom of expression and assembly,” the proposed policy states, “are subject to the need to maintain safety and order.” The union takes extremely seriously the University’s responsibility to maintain a safe environment for those who work and study here. But safety is not the same as “order”; safety does not require repression.
Universities should uphold the highest standards for freedom of speech and assembly. As institutions devoted not just to the transmission of knowledge but to the production of new ideas, universities are inherently places of exploration, debate, dissent and, sometimes, protest. If CUNY is to be an intellectually vibrant university, it must recognize that “expressive activity” is a vital part of campus life, not a danger to be confined to narrow limits.
The PSC leadership believes it is important that every member of the faculty and staff have an opportunity to read the proposed policy, which we received informally this month—though not from CUNY. The draft, however, is dated June 27. The proposed policy potentially affects all of us, and our students. We urge you to discuss the draft policy in your union chapter meetings in preparation for further union action. The PSC leadership has begun to develop a comprehensive response to the proposed policy, using every possible means—including protest—to challenge it. On October 24, the union sent CUNY a formal demand to bargain on the policy, as we believe it would have an impact on the terms and conditions of employment of the faculty and staff we represent. Union officers are also in discussion with the University Faculty Senate leadership and have asked First Amendment lawyers for their review. The PSC’s executive council and delegate assembly will fully examine the draft policy and consider resolutions in response at their next meetings.
CUNY was founded in 1847 as the result of disruption and dissent; several of its colleges have been saved from closing during fiscal crises because of protest and assembly. Chilling restrictions on “expressive activity” have no place here. I welcome your comments on the proposed policy and will update you as the union continues to act in response.
Labor and Civil Rights Attorney Moshe Marvit in an interview in Dissent, here. A sample:
They’re also destroying the academy. Because as this happens, more and more students are going to ask, “why would I get a PhD? You want me to have a PhD to teach your students, yet why would I do that? Because it seems to me if I get a PhD, I’m going to end up making poverty wages. I can do that now without a PhD. I’ll go to Starbucks and do it.”
They’re destroying their own system, and they’re going to wake up and realize that students and parents have decided that there’s no use for the university anymore.
[N]otwithstanding the current spin from the Providence College administration, my event is not being rescheduled. It is being replaced with a different event.
In February I agreed that I would come to Providence to give a lecture, which would be followed by a Q&A period. Although Professor Arroyo and I had previously (last Fall) discussed the possibility of a debate, that idea was dropped for budgetary reasons. Then, just last week, I agreed to change the format so that I would have a lecture with an official respondent. Now, finally, I am being invited for a debate. These are three different kinds of academic events, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. I have plenty of experience with all three, and (as I’ve long said) I’d be happy to do a debate at Providence College. What I’m not happy to do is to aid the administration in the pretense that “the September 26 event was merely being postponed, not cancelled, until we could be sure that it went forward in the format in which it was originally proposed,” as Provost Lena’s statement said yesterday....
The truth is that it’s difficult not to feel as if the Providence College administration regards me as a sort of virus, which might infect students if not blocked by some administration-approved surgical mask. This feeling is sadly familiar, to me and to any gay person. It is the malaise of the closet, the notion that some features of oneself are unspeakable. I am the Other. And if I feel that way, I can only imagine how young gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender Providence College students must feel. It is for them that I remain most concerned.
That’s where “damage control” should be focused right now: the personal harm to LGBT Providence College students, not to mention faculty, staff, and alumni. Pope Francis has called for a “new balance” in the Church’s pastoral ministry, and there is an opportunity—yet unrealized—to implement that balance here.
The Provost's disingenous statement here. Kudos to the Providence College faculty for "raising hell" about this. (I'm waiting for permission to post a strong statement by the President of the Faculty Senate there.) The newly appointed defender of bigotry against gay people is a familiar figure. It is always an occasion for sadness when irrational religious dogma leads intelligent people down the road of moral depravity--at least when they aren't effective (when they are effective, which won't happen here, a different emotion is appropriate).
UPDATE: The letter that no doubt helped the Provost to backtrack:
(Note: I'm putting this under the "academic freedom" category, but without knowing more about Professor Guth's areas of expertise, it's not clear to me this is an academic freedom issue, as distinct from a generic free speech issue.)
UPDATE: Actually, it turns out Kansas is now punishing him for his speech. Prof. Guth would do well to consult a lawyer, since he is pretty clearly being punished for offensive but constitutionally protected speech.
AND ANOTHER: Professor Guth concurs with being put on leave, given the threats he and others have received. The linked article also reports, unsurprisingly, that the local fascists in Kansas want him fired for exercising his free speech rights.
UPDATE: Unsurprisingly, Dusquesne begs to differ with the account by Mr. Kovalik:
Yesterday an op-ed piece appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, purporting to describe certain circumstances preceding the death of adjunct instructor, Margaret Mary Vojtko. This piece was authored by Daniel Kovalik, a United Steelworkers lawyer, and was met with shock and dismay by the many individuals in our community who, with great compassion, attempted to support Margaret Mary during a very difficult time in her life. Margaret Mary taught as an adjunct for over 20 years at Duquesne, and had numerous close relationships on our campus. Despite the assertions made in the op-ed piece, individuals across the University community attempted to help Margaret Mary through her last trying days. Spiritan priests, support staff, and University and McAnulty College administrators reached out to assist Margaret Mary with the challenges she faced. Father Dan Walsh, University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry, was personally involved in helping Margaret Mary. The following letter from Fr. Dan, published in today’s Post-Gazette, expresses his feelings about the inaccuracies in the op-ed piece:
I was incredulous after reading Daniel Kovalik's op-ed piece about Margaret Mary Vojtko. I knew Margaret Mary well. When we learned of problems with her home she was invited to live with us in the formation community at Laval House on campus, where she resided for several weeks over the past year. Over the course of Mary's illness I, along with other Spiritan priests, visited her regularly. In addition, the University and the Spiritan priests at Duquesne offered several types of assistance to her. Mr. Kovalik's use of an unfortunate death to serve an alternative agenda is sadly exploitive, and is made worse by his description of the circumstances that bear no resemblance to reality.
Rev. Daniel Walsh, C.S.Sp., University Chaplain and Director of Campus Ministry
As the administrator responsible for communications, I can describe the feedback we have received in response to Mr. Kovalik's op-ed as falling into two categories. The first category includes individuals who have been intimately involved and familiar with the situation, and who immediately recognized this op-ed as a reckless attempt to use Margaret Mary Votjko's death as a means to further the self-interest of Mr. Kovalik's external organization. These individuals have expressed both outrage and sadness that Margaret Mary has been used in this way. Then there are those with no direct knowledge of the actual circumstances. They have also expressed outrage, using social media to attack Duquesne based on their acceptance of Mr. Kovalik's published mischaracterizations. Our defense is the truth. Mr. Kovalik has tried to frame this as an issue of human resources policy, but he is wrong. The support provided and offered to Margaret Mary Votjko was broad, involving the Spiritan community, student housing, EAP, campus police, facilities management,and her faculty and staff colleagues. It was wholly unrelated to her employment status or classification, or to any issues of adjunct unionization. This was not a case of human resources policy, but one of concern for a human being - the type of concern and care that those in the Duquesne community have shown for each other for generations.
ANOTHER: It is probably worth noting that for all its huffing-and-puffing, the University does not dispute that she was fired after 25 years of adjuncting at wages as low as $10,000 per year. The silly reference to the "self-interest" of Mr. Kovalik's organization is a reference to the attempt by the UAW to unionize the adjuncts at Duquesne--a move that Ms. Vojtko apparently supported.
Alas, articles with titles like this are a sign of the times in the neoliberal order: higher education priced out of reach, parents and students alike anxious about their economic futures, and the old ideal of college as a time for developing the mind and becoming a human being, rather than a reactive brute or mindless vessel through which all the prejudices of society pass, is forgotten. I share the worries of the Wake Forest history professors quoted in the article.
Interesting infographic, courtesy of Jack Kelle. One point to bear in mind is that the less well-regarded the PhD program you attend, the higher the probability of ending up an adjunct.
UPDATE: My colleage Michael Kremer writes:
The page to which you linked on the adjunct crisis overstates things by *a lot* in one crucial respect.
He reports over 140,000 doctorates awarded last year. That seemed incredibly suspicious, so I checked the link he gave for that datum.
The 140,000 figure "Includes Ph.D., Ed.D., and comparable degrees at the doctoral level. Includes most degrees formerly classified as first-professional, such as M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees." footnote 1 at http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=72
So it is more like one "professorship" position (whatever that means; I didn't check further) for every three PhDs rather than one position for every 10 PhDs.
I don't want in any way to diminish the problem with adjuncts making up the majority of the teaching faculty, their poor working conditions, miserable pay,lack of benefits, etc. But I don't think falsehood in the service of laudable goals is a good strategy.
AND ANOTHER: Kathryn Norlock (Trent) writes:
I have heard from students, colleagues, and reporters here in Canada yesterday and today, who wanted me to confirm the number on the infographic to which you recently linked, that the "AVG." salary of tenure-track professors in the USA is $120,000.
I do not find any evidence that this is the case, and rather than continue fielding individual emails myself, I would ask that you clarify on your blog that the data from this table:
suggests that the infographic's "avg" comes closest to reflecting the average salary of Full Professors at doctoral institutions, that is, our most senior colleagues, and the smallest segment of "tenure-track" instructional faculty. I find it shockingly irresponsible of the infographic authors to suggest otherwise.
I agree this is misleading, though full professors are sometimes said to be "tenure-stream," and it may be that an adjunct of comparable seniority (I do not know) might indeed earn an average of 20K. In any case, these two examples suggest that the 'infographic' be approached with some caution.
As an incoming grad student, and reader of your blog, I am cognizant of the generally harsh reality of the academic job market. In light of that, I obviously do not want to do anything that would lessen my chances on the market. I am wondering what the general consensus is -- if there is one -- regarding social media accounts and academic hiring. To use Twitter as an example, there does seem to be a benefit to having a public Twitter account in order to a) control your online presence (whatever that means), and b) participate in public conversations with the philosophical community. A positive instance of the latter that comes to mind is simply a public appeal for resources in a specific area (i.e. "Does anybody know of any articles discussing narrative identity and Nussbaum's capabilities?").
The concern, however, would be that any number of Twitter gaffes could lead to a negative perception of the job candidate by the hiring committee. A candidate might Tweet in support of an unpopular political movement, or express an opinion that they later come to regret, or indicate that they have questionable work/study habits. Ignoring the more obvious of the possible kinds of poor Twitter etiquette -- swearing, racism/sexism, illegal behavior -- is it better to just hide Twitter activity altogether? Or do hiring committees not even look at such things? I would hate to lose out on a great job opportunity because I wrote a tweet three years prior in support of an unpopular/divisive issue (i.e. for/against gay marriage, government surveillance, or a particular Presidential candidate). Still,neither do I like the idea of losing out on the sorts of personal/professional relationships that Twitter might help to foster by making my profile publicly accessible. Any guidance from you or your readers would be fantastic!
My own advice would be to steer clear of any public social media: the evidence is that first impressions are "sticky," and there is way too much risk that a bad first impression will be created by unfortunate or out-of-context remarks on social media, rather than a student's work.
I've opened this for comments from readers; graduate students may post without their name (but use a distinctive handle), but must include a valid e-mail address, which will not appear.
UPDATE: The responses on Twitter, or at least the few I've seen, inadvertently make the point about the potential for that medium, perhaps in particular, for embarrassment. One philosopher (who I shall not name, to protect the foolish) reads the preceding and then glosses it, bizarrely, as "Brian Leiter outs himself as a fan of cowardly conformity and surrender to group think, for others anywT telling.” Yes, my whole career has been about “cowardly conformity,” and that was precisely the question my student correspondent was asking: "Dear Prof Leiter, how can I be more cowardly and conformist?" Even more amusingly, someone who tweets pseudonymously (!) declares: “The discipline's archetype Socrates saw no qualms with being held accountable for his opinions and we commend him for it.” So why does this guy hide his identity? You decide. In any case, most commentators and correspondents understood that this was not about whether you should defend controversial views in your philosophical work, but whether you should risk making an ass of yourself in superficial ways on public social media...the way, say, the preceding tweeters have done.
AND FOR A DIFFERENT VIEW: This philosopher sings the praises of Twitter. (Thanks to Andy M. for the pointer.)
Title IX, broadly speaking, prohibits sex discrimination in the educational context. I am grateful to philosopher Heidi Lockwood (So. Conn. State Univ.) for an illuminating recent correspondence about Title IX, which she has given me permission to share.
Kudos on posting the critique of the open letter from concerned philosophers re: the obligation of the University of Miami to protect the student in question. Critical press is often better than no press; you have effectively done far more to promote discussion on the issue than you would have had you simply signed the letter without further comment.
That said, I want to respectfully call attention to an important fact that you've overlooked.
I agree with your point that McGinn's right to free speech doesn't give him the right to violate a student's privacy, particularly given that students' privacy is protected by FERPA. But the university's obligation to protect the student doesn't end with FERPA. Title IX explicitly prohibits conduct that creates a hostile environment if such an environment is severe, objective, and pervasive enough to undermine a student's educational experience. As I understand it, McGinn is still on the faculty. So if U Miami doesn't address the problem (and this most likely means more than just curbing McGinn's hostilities -- it could also mean, e.g., scheduling some discussions between the department and the Title IX coordinator), they may well find themselves with a Title IX suit on their hands.
Anything you can do to increase awareness about the Title IX obligations of universities in this and similar situations would of course be much appreciated. (I have had some recent and significant experience with the OCR's interpretation of said obligations, and would be happy to draft a post if you don't have time to write this up yourself.)
I expressed uncertainty about whether mere blog postings by a faculty member on leave were enough to raise Title IX issues. Professor Lockwood wrote back:
[A]ccording to the OCR office in Boston, blog posts are in fact enough to warrant Title IX action if they: (1) are written by a member of the university (current student, staff, or employee), (2) can be shown to be directly related to a sexual harassment complaint, and (3) can be objectively determined to be negative.
This is actually a very recent development in the DOE's interpretation of Title IX, and was codified in the form of a "Dear Collegue" letter which explicitly discusses retaliation for filing a sexual harassment complaint (and which carries the same weight as the original act for the purposes of enforcement by the OCR) released on April 24, 2013. Here's the link: http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201304.html. Note that this letter contains a link with contact information for the local OCR office, and that the OCR offers "technical assistance."
The release of the previous "Dear Colleague" letter of April 4, 2011 marks the point at which the OCR began requiring that grievance procedures use just a "preponderance of evidence" (the "more likely than not" standard used in civil cases, rather than the stricter "clear and convincing" requirement used in criminal cases). The April 2011 Dear Colleague letter is available online here: http://thefire.org/public/pdfs/0559f332d909e0024ac3bc0d07081e60.pdf?direct
And, as footnote 27 of the original 1997 OCR Sexual Harassment Guidance document indicates, there is a long history of educational institutions being held liable under Title IX for knowing failure to take appropriate actions to remedy a hostile environment.
Frank Richter, a highly-regarded computational linguist at the University of Tuebingen, is at risk of losing his job. Why? Because, like large numbers of middle-rank (non-professorial) academics in Germany, his "time is up." Marion Zepf, a student at Tuebingen, writes:
Frank Richter, an outstanding, internationally renowned researcher in computational linguistics and an excellent lecturer, is about to lose his job at the University of Tuebingen, Germany. This is by no fault on his part, but by federal law - and Frank is by far not the only academic in Germany who has to leave the academic world despite his good work.
In Germany, 85% of middle-rank (i.e. non-professorial) academics are employed under fixed-term contracts. These contracts are usually extended and chained, up to a limit of twelve years, which is mandated by a federal law (called 'Wissenschaftszeitvertragsgesetz'). After that time, the researcher may no longer sign a fixed-term contract at any German University. The only way to stay in academia is to be appointed to a chair - an option that covers only 10% of middle-rank academics, - or to obtain one of the very few other unlimited-term positions. The latter case is extremely rare, as there are not nearly enough such positions available to employ even just the best researchers. Thus, the law has the effect of an academic employment ban for Frank and many others who are not lucky enough to receive an unlimited-term contract.
There is a petition in support of Dr. Richter here. (If you do not read German, there is an English translation of the petition here.)
These authors make fair points, but it is indicative of the depraved circumstances under which we live that the argument has to be made in this form ("studying humanities can make you employable"!). The point of humanistic study is to make students human, that is, to allow individuals to realize some distinctively human abilities, such as having and understanding values, reflecting upon and understanding the past, cultivating aesthetic appreciation or achievement along the many dimensions that the world has offered us, and refining the intellectual tools necessary to understand, interpret, and interact with the broader world as something other than an automaton. Or, to borrow from Nietzsche, the point of disciplined humanistic study is to cultivate everything that "makes life on earth worth living--for instance: virtue, art, music, dance, reason, intellect--something that transfigures, something refined, fantastic, and divine" (Beyond Good and Evil, 188). The real scandal is that purportedly serious universities let students study "business" and "engineering" and other fields that have their uses--they make life livable, but not worth living.
Chattel slavery may be history in most parts of the world, thank goodness, but wage slavery is not, and these defenses of the humanities are, alas, depressingly realistic testimonies to that fact.
IHE has the story. If "conservative students" feel "besieged" because they believe, inter alia, that human activities don't contribute to global warming, God created the world 10,000 years ago, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is "only a theory," or that Rep. Paul Ryan's budget plan was a serious attempt to balance the budget--all things that that benighted cohort of American "conservatives" often profess to believe these days--then they should feel besieged because they live in darkness, and it is the job of universities to bring enlightenment. Truth and knowledge is not evenly distributed across the political spectrum, and the modern Republican Party in the U.S. has claim to precious little of either these days. If students are "besieged" because they do not have a fair opportunity to defend their views with arguments and evidence, then they have a legitimate complaint. End of story.
It is surely a great embarrassment to the economics profession that one of their leading journals publishes such a piece. Not only is the standard of argument lamentable, but the failure to reference Nozick might be considered an academic offence if this were an undergraduate essay (and would certainly draw adverse comment from a competent teacher).
UPDATE: Longtime reader Roger Albin (Michigan) writes:
A fairly good example of inconsistency. In his Better Angels book, Pinker celebrates Norbert Elias’ Civilizing Process thesis that increased emphasis on etiquette and formal propriety played an important role in taming the casual violence of European societies. Elias’ arguments (an earlier and much more thoughtful version of James Wilson’s Broken Windows hypothesis about crime prevalence) easily justify rigid standards about sexual harassment. You can’t accept Elias’ arguments as valid and then turn around and excuse McGinn’s behavior. Pretty thoughtless.
I want to bring to your attention, and the broader philosophical community, a scam journal Philosophy Study and predatory publisher David Publishing: http://www.davidpublishing.org/.
In July of 2011, I was contacted by a new journal Philosophy Study to submit a paper I had recently presented at a conference. The paper was under review at another journal, so I didn’t submit it. But the request also included a call for reviewers and board members. The journal wanted to build its editorial board and get a new editor in the near future. Since the journal claimed to be published by an Illinois company and I wanted to do some review work, I sent my CV and said I would be willing. What happened next was shocking to me.
First, let me say that they want ALL reviews done in two weeks. I accepted the first job and rejected the paper. It was bad, it got the philosophical problem it was trying to solve wrong, and I wrote what I thought was a decent report for the journal. I will come back to this paper shortly.
I then received two papers that were not in any condition for review. They were clearly written by non-native English speakers. They had no business being sent to a reviewer, and I said as much to the staff person, Karen Garcia who I no longer believe is a real person, but the name all the people at David Publishing use when they send out emails.
I was then asked to review again the paper I already rejected. The author had made a few changes, but it was still not worth publishing. I then used Google to search for the paper. I found that the paper had been published in an online journal type thing published by an institute run by the author. I alerted Karen Garcia about the fact that the paper had been previously published. She wrote back that Philosophy Study didn’t care and they were going to publish it anyway. I know now this is because they wanted the publishing fees.
I was irritated. I got one more paper to review, and I rejected it as unacceptable. The English was so bad that I couldn’t even make sense of it. I was then taken off the website as part of the editorial board and was only contacted when they said their website had been hacked.
I have since gotten solicitations from them every time I present a paper at a conference: The Society for Exact Philosophy and both the Florida and Illinois Philosophical Association meetings. The most recent of these solicitations said that the journal was indexed in the Philosopher’s Index. This is when I knew I had to act. I submitted two notes via the PI’s website in November of 2012. Here is what I wrote to them:
“I would like to provide some information about the newly indexed journal Philosophy Study. This journal is not reputable, and I believe it should not be indexed in the Philosopher's Index. I don't want to write a long letter here, but I am more than willing to share my story with you. I volunteered as an editor for the journal and was shocked at what I experienced. The journal is basically a vanity press exploiting the open access model. In fact, David Publishing is on Beall's list of predatory publishers, which you can find here: http://scholarlyoa.com/publishers/. I am happy to explain even more, but I suggest you look into this publisher and remove them from the index. I should let you know that I have contemplated contacting Dr. Leiter to let him run a story on his blog, the Leiter Reports, on this journal. I didn't learn it was being indexed with the Philosopher's Index until today (12 November 2012). I think it is even more important to let people know that this is not a reputable journal, and they should stay away from it.”
The second note read:
“Here is another story about David Publishing that you might want to read when considering my last note about removing them.”
A few months ago, I got an email from Karen Garcia to review a paper from them. I was a bit surprised since I hadn’t had any contact with them in months. I was able to identify the author through a Google search of the paper title (it was presented at a conference) and warned the author about where they had submitted. I told the author that if they didn’t believe me, they could research the journal to make sure it was where they wanted to publish. This paper was too good to be in this vanity journal. I felt like I had to warn this person. Moreover, other sources suggest that there is a large fee to publish with the journal. I can’t verify the amount, but give the fact that Beall has put David Publishing on his list of predatory publishers, Beall’s List, there should be real concern.
So, I ask that you share this with your readers. I believe that the Philosopher’s Index should not be indexing this journal. It gives it credibility it doesn’t deserve. I know there are lots of people who want to support Open Access, and I think the Philosophers’ Imprint, is awesome, but this isn’t what is going on here. Philosophy Study is some kind of scam, and it needs to be known that papers in it are not what people think they are. It is a vanity press, and the publishers are predatory.
If people want me to explain even more why I know this journal is a scam, I can, but I suggest checking out the other blogs I have linked to above and look at David Publishing’s website. Another oddity is that they have David Publishing email addresses, but they also use a Yahoo address for the journal. All of this should have warned me early on about the unprofessional nature of the journal, but I was willing to give them a chance and help make them better. That was a poor assumption on my part. Everyone in philosophy should be warned of this journal and avoid it. And the Philosopher’s Index should stop indexing it.
UPDATE: Neil Easterbrook, an English professor at Texas Christian University, writes:
I read several of the abstracts for papers in their "Journal of Literature and Art Studies," focusing on literature (my area of competence), and I found all of them seriously flawed. They ranged from uninteresting to incoherent; all were littered with grammatical errors and contained fragmented, incomplete expression of their own arguments. Several did not seem to have an argument.
That the journal is published monthly; that its topic is *everything* in the arts; that the essays all seem to be seven or eight pages long; and that the publication cost of the journal is almost 500 USD a year seems diagnostic: this is a vanity publisher, and not just in philosophy.
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)