Here's a compilation of some reported incidents that should be alarming. One assumes that in most or all these cases there were no repercussions for the speech, but the idea that they would even be reported and scrutinized is bizarre.
Besides being a massive violation of academic freedom, it's almost certainly unconstitutional for a state university to mandate this kind of political balance (which would require, among other things, an unconstitutional invasion of the privacy of faculty to elicit their political affiliations). I assume it won't be passed, and that if it is passed, it will be enjoined by a court right away and then struck down.
(Thanks to Michael Swanson for the pointer.)
UPDATE: More from CHE. There's already pushback in the legislature on this nonsense. Apparently the bill would rely only on voter registration records, exempting from consideration those not registered.
A new account at IHE of a familiar trend. But let's remember the context. Too bad, though, to see students flocking to the pseudo-science of economics at some colleges. Let them study real sciences at least!
...due to negative returns on its endowment in the last year. Most large university endowments declined last year, though Harvard's decline was on the higher end (over 5%), compared to a loss of about 2,5% for Princeton and a gain of almost 1% for Stanford's. At the further extremes, Penn's endowment increased nearly 6% last year, while Chicago's (sad to say) declined more than 7%!
Thousands of academics have pledged not to attend U.S. conferences because of the immigration ban. The only effect of this is to punish U.S. academics--who, overwhelmingly, did not and do not support Trump--who might benefit from foreign scholars participating in conferences. It will have no effect on Bannon polices, since Herr Bannon and his lapdog have nothing but contempt for knowledge and academics. So what is the point? I'm opening comments, I'm genuinely curious to hear what people think. There's also a poll to gauge reader reaction:
UPDATE: With over 350 responses in just the last five hours, sentiment here is pretty negative: 17% favor the boycott, 70% are again, 13% are undecided. I would like to hear from supporters about their reasons in the comment section. I'll let this run into tomorrow, so that more readers in Europe and Australasia can participate in the poll.
SO AFTER 24 HOURS and nearly 600 votes, the results are not much changed from yesterday afternoon: 19% favor the boycott, 70% oppose, the remainder are undecided. (A couple of readers pointed out that Justin Weinberg [South Carolina] ran a similar poll on his blog, which again revealed only minority support for the boycott. [Advertisers take note: that poll got only about 250 votes, despite being open for more than 48 hours!])
Some Breitbart bozo named Milo Y. (I can't be bothered to figure out how to spell the last name) runs around to college campuses being an arse and insulting people, and students protest. (The student groups that invite this malevolent clown ought to try something novel: think about what you're doing.) At Berkeley, there was a large, and peaceful, student protest in advance of the bozo's speech, and then about 100 outsiders also showed up and started a riot, started fires, destroyed property etc. Berkeley went to great lengths to try to permit the event to take place, but when the riot started, they cancelled the event out of legitimate concerns for safety. The Ignoramus-in-Chief then tweeted that Berkeley should lose federal funding. This has no basis in existing law.
Republicans, please impeach this pathetically stupid and inept person before it's too late for you too.
ADDENDUM: Whether Berkeley students were involved in the rioting, I should add, is irrelevant: existing law does not authorize withholding federal funds from Berkeley because of this incident.
[The authors] analyzed a hand-curated set regarding 45 years’ worth of articles (5,664 total) in four top humanities journals -- Critical Inquiry, New Literary History, PMLA and Representations. They took into account each author’s college or university affiliation at time of publication, Ph.D.-granting institution and gender. Some 3,547 authors were represented, from 344 Ph.D. institutions and 721 authorial institutions.
Regarding Ph.D.-granting institutions, the top 20 percent of universities represented in the sample account for 86 percent of the articles, and the top 10 universities represented alone account for 51 percent: Ph.D.s from Columbia, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Yale Universities and the Universities of Chicago, Oxford, and California, Berkeley, wrote 2,866 of 5,664 articles.
Authors with Ph.D.s from just Yale and Harvard account for 20 percent of all articles.
Why is this not surprising? Because in many humanities fields there are no real disciplinary standards, other than what the anointed deem worthy. Philosophy suffers from some of this too, though I would be surprised if it were to the degree found in the literary fields, but perhaps that is wishful thinking.
...does not greatly concern me, at least at this stage. It sounds like the point will be to deregulate, to make it easier for for-profit institutions to operate and religious institutions to discriminate. Both are bad, but not nearly as bad as everything else going on! But we'll see whether the taskforce's mission changes.
IHE collects them here. Some are a bit tepid, others foreceful. Note the critical comments by the President of Purdue, Mitch Daniels, the former Republican Governor of Indiana. If President [sic] Bannon and his lapdog Trump can continue to alienate Republicans like Mitch Daniels, impeachment may come sooner rather than later.
I hope other universities will follow suit. The biggest obstacle to the fascist proclivities of Trump & Co. will be local and state refusals to comply; the country is too vast, with too many centers of political power, for the gangsters in Washington to succeed without voluntary cooperation from localities and states.
I would urge all U.S. faculty to sign this statement, which was drafted when President [sic] Trump was only proposing a 30-day suspension of visas from certain Muslim countries, as opposed to the actual 90-day suspension he enacted. Mousa Mohammadian, a PhD student in HPS at the University of Notre Dame, who called this to my attention, also shared some examples of the immediate harm and disruption this is causing:
What is happening is truly terrible. A friend of mine, a sociology PhD student at the University of Chicago, is doing her dissertation’s field work in Iran now. She had plan to come back in March and teach her own course but now she cannot. Another friend of mine, a PhD student at CUNY had a flight from UAE to the US some hours after Trump issuing the order. Officials in Abu Dhabi International Airport didn’t let her to take the flight. She is going to miss her second semester, if not the whole opportunity of studying here.
The New York Timesarticle on this calls attention to a philosophy student affected by this malicious stupidity:
Shadi Heidarifar, a philosophy student recently admitted to New York University, said in a message on Twitter that she had spent three years applying to universities in the United States.
“I had to work to save money, gather documents. The application fees were so expensive that a whole family could live for a month” on them, Ms. Heidarifar wrote. When she was accepted recently, she was elated. “But now my entire future is destroyed in one second.”
Per the instructions:
to sign, email your name, [major distinctions], title, affiliation to: firstname.lastname@example.org
By "major distinctions," they clearly mean only things like, "Member, American Academy of Arts & Sciences," or "Nobel Laureate [Physics]." See many of the first names on the statement. (You'll notice that many of the leading representatives of the right-wing Chicago School of Economics have signed this statement, which I was pleased to see.)
Just to add one more immediate consequence of the executive order, students and scholars with the wrong nationality who are studying or working in universities outside the US can no longer attend US conferences. For instance, an Iranian student of mine cannot go to the Central or the Pacific APA meetings as they are within the 90 day period. Needless to say this is not just a loss for the philosophers with the targeted nationalities (though, of course, they are the ones who suffer the most), but to all APA members who’ll no longer be able to interact with these scholars in our conferences.
The even bigger question is what happens after 90 days. My bet is that they settle on vetting procedures that are so onerous and unpleasant as to effectively discourage people from those countries, at least those who have a choice, from even trying to enter.
The Lincoln Center campus denies approval for students who wanted to start a chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The Center for Constitutional Rights' letter to the Fordham admin sets out what happened and why it is unlawful. This is all-too-typical of the brazen hypocrisy about free speech on American campuses when it comes to Israel. Shame on Fordham. I hope their President will reverse this decision promptly.
The problem is that the hype over IAT research, and the eagerness to apply the test to real-world problems, has so outpaced the evidence that it has launched a lot of studies built on underwhelming foundations. “Implicit bias research has been driven by both the desire to understand truths about the human mind and the desire to solve social problems,” said Forscher. “These goals have not always been in conflict. Unfortunately, one of the ways they have is that the desire to do something, anything, to solve problems related to race has led some people to jump to conclusions about the causal role of implicit bias that they might have been more cautious about had their only focus been on establishing truth.”
To Forscher, implicit bias’s role in propagating racial inequality should be given a “fair trial in the court of scientific evidence,” not simply assumed. But what’s going on now isn’t a fair trial; instead, the overhyping of IAT stacks the deck so much that sometimes it feels like implicit bias can explain everything. But plenty of researchers think that other factors play a bigger role in determining some of the most important societal outcomes. “I think unconscious racial prejudice is real and consequential,” said Robb Willer, a sociologist at Stanford University, “but my sense is that racial inequality in America is probably driven more by structural factors like concentrated poverty, the racial wealth gap, differential exposure to violence, the availability of early childhood education, and so on. Though it is also worth noting that past and present racial prejudice helped create these structural inequalities.” This is a fairly common sentiment among social scientists who study race and discrimination.
So it’s an open question, at least: The scientific truth is that we don’t know exactly how big a role implicit bias plays in reinforcing the racial hierarchy, relative to countless other factors. We do know that after almost 20 years and millions of dollars’ worth of IAT research, the test has a markedly unimpressive track record relative to the attention and acclaim it has garnered. Leading IAT researchers haven’t produced interventions that can reduce racism or blunt its impact. They haven’t told a clear, credible story of how implicit bias, as measured by the IAT, affects the real world. They have flip-flopped on important, baseline questions about what their test is or isn’t measuring. And because the IAT and the study of implicit bias have become so tightly coupled, the test’s weaknesses have caused collateral damage to public and academic understanding of the broader concept itself. As Mitchell and Tetlock argue in their book chapter, it is “difficult to find a psychological construct that is so popular yet so misunderstood and lacking in theoretical and practical payoff” as implicit bias. They make a strong case that this is in large part due to problems with the IAT.
My "academic ethics" column this week at CHE will be on a similar topic, but this author does a good, concrete job on arguments to avoid and arguments to make. The idiotic comment by the Northern Iowa professor disparaging postal workers also lept out at me when I read it.
Apparently these legislators are too stupid to realize that tenure is non-monetary compensation, and that ending tenure will require enhanced compensation--unless of course the plan is just to destroy the public universities in the state. Which may be the plan. (The Iowa legislator apparently doesn't even know about breach of contract--it would certainly be a constructive expenditure of state resources to have to defend against a lawsuit by every tenured professor in the state were this legislation to become law!)
MOVING TO FRONT FROM JANUARY 9--SOME USEFUL COMMENTS, ESP. REGARDING PRACTICES AT BERKELEY (see esp. comment #19)
A student applying to PhD programs in philosophy writes:
I'm currently applying to PhD programs, and several of them are in the University of California school system. Many of these schools (Berkeley, UCSD, and UCLA, at least) of these schools either require or strongly recommend submitting a "personal history statement." Unlike the well-known (and relevant) "personal statement," the history statement says,
"Please describe how your personal background and experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree. In this section, you may also include any relevant information on how you have overcome barriers to access higher education, evidence of how you have come to understand the barriers faced by others, evidence of your academic service to advance equitable access to higher education for women, racial minorities, and individuals from other groups that have been historically underrepresented in higher education, evidence of your research focusing on underserved populations or related issues of inequality, or evidence of your leadership among such groups."
I don't mind the first part of the question regarding how your personal experiences inform your decision to pursue a graduate degree. I can see its relevance (it speaks to the applicant's motivation and perhaps can be a useful predictor of how likely the applicant will be to finish the degree), and I can even see some students feeling pleased that they can personalize their application a bit more, expressing the unique things they can add to the program.
That said, besides the first sentence, the rest of the things on this personal history statement bother me quite a bit, especially when the essay is *required,* and therefore is likely being used to evaluate an applicant.First, the latter part is completely irrelevant to academic fit of the prospective student, like requiring an applicant to describe their medical history. Second, it seems overtly politicized, displaying a left-leaning preference in the institution. Since academia is *already* taking flak for being a politicized enterprise, this only brings that problem into sharp relief. Third, and most deeply frustrating in my opinion, is that this seems a clear selection mechanism for applicants who belong to a certain moral club -- that of making their dominant moral aims helping underprivileged students -- instead of being a selection mechanism for applicants with a strong moral character (having a strong moral character I could see being relevant, since most academics will draw on public funds for their work).
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Harvard, and the University of Virginia examined 499 studies over 20 years involving 80,859 participants that used the IAT and other, similar measures. They discovered two things: One is that the correlation between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior appears weaker than previously thought. They also conclude that there is very little evidence that changes in implicit bias have anything to do with changes in a person’s behavior. These findings, they write, "produce a challenge for this area of research."
That’s putting it mildly. "When you actually look at the evidence we collected, there’s not necessarily strong evidence for the conclusions people have drawn," says Patrick Forscher, a co-author of the paper, which is currently under review at Psychological Bulletin. The finding that changes in implicit bias don’t lead to changes in behavior, Forscher says, "should be stunning"....
Everyone agrees that the statistical effect linking bias to behavior is slight. They only disagree about how slight. Blanton’s 2013 meta-analysis found less of a link than a 2009 meta-analysis by Banaji and Greenwald. Blanton sees the correlation as so small as to be trivial. Banaji and Greenwald, in a 2015 paper, argue that "statistically small effects" can have "societally large effects."
The new analysis seems to bolster Blanton’s less-sanguine take. It found that the correlation between implicit bias and behavior was even smaller than what Blanton had reported. That came as a surprise, the researchers write.
Another surprise is that one of the co-authors of the paper is Brian Nosek, who is — along with Greenwald and Banaji — one of the three founders of the IAT. Nosek, best known these days as the director of the Center for Open Science and an advocate for better research practices, is well aware that this paper will provide aid and comfort to critics of the test he helped create....
He does defend the IAT, noting that it’s engaged millions of people in a conversation about the science of bias. He points to the test’s successes, like experiments that show how it can predict who someone would favor in a presidential election by tracking their associations. But what he calls the "very weak overall" connection between implicit bias and discriminatory behavior should, he believes, put researchers on notice. "You would think that if you change the associations, and the associations predict behavior, then the behavior would change too," Nosek says. "But the evidence is really limited on it."
Patrick Forscher, who shares the title of first author of the paper with Calvin Lai, a Harvard postdoc, thinks that there’s been pressure on researchers over the years to make the science of implicit bias sound more definitive and relevant than the evidence justifies. "A lot of people want to know, How do we tackle these disparities?" says Forscher, a postdoc at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "It makes us feel important to say, Aha, we have these measures that can tell us what the problem is, and, not only that, we can tell them how to fix the problem."
That’s essentially Blanton’s argument as well. Public discussion about implicit bias has been based largely on the results from one particular test, and that test, in his view, has been falsely sold as solid science. "They have engaged the public in a way that has wrapped the feeling of science and weight around a lot of ‘cans’ and ‘maybes,’" Blanton says. "Most of your score on this test is noise, and what signal there is, we don’t know what it is or what it means."
I trust the philosophers who jumped on this bandwagon will now rethink their positions in light of the actual evidence. If one is looking for an explanation for the obstacles women face in philosophy, perhaps explicit bias and sexual harassment deserve the real attention.
(As a sidenote, and a reminder of the totalitarian environment in some departments, the PhD student who sent this to me asked not to be named since, "Folks in my department take this stuff as gospel, so I'd rather not be targeted as a skeptic." After this newest research, anyone who still takes it as "gospel" will have a lot in common with those who take the actual gospel literally.)
There are more than 200 suggestions by a diverse group of contributors, including many non-scientists, some philosophers (e.g., Daniel Dennett, Andy Clark), and even one charlatan. It's an interesting list, though a few of the concepts seem to me more the purview of pseudo-science (or not-well-confirmed scientific ideas or concepts).
The PGR is a very useful resource for prospective philosophy graduate students. But to the best of my knowledge no other graduate discipline has a similarly detailed, transparently and fairly assessed, regularly updated, and well regarded guide to the quality of its graduate programs. Or if there are any such guides, they are not easily accessible to prospective graduate students (whose first recourse is of course Google, where they will find only the USN&WR rankings and other such lists whose value and reliability students are in no position to discern).
It would be a great service to those of us who are thinking about non-philosophy PhD programs if there were a place to accumulate a list of any such guides. Would you please provide a comment space on Leiter Reports for your readers to post about similarly reputable and reliable rankings for other graduate fields with which they are familiar?
This question has come up before, and I am still not aware of such resources in other fields, and presumably for the reasons noted back in 2009: no good deed goes unpunished, especially when it involves providing prospective students actual information about program quality! The National Research Council used to provide such a resource every decade or so, but failed in its task the last time around. The "Qurky Silliness" rankings aren't of much use for philosophy, so presumably aren't of much use in other fields. So, readers, any ideas about resources? Any thoughts on the rather sloppy reputational surveys U.S. News conducts about various fields? Are they useful? Dated? Bizarre?
You lose your job for it, at least if you're at the mercy of the maniacs there in the Graduate Students Association. The irony of costing a human being his livelihood over a joke about wanting to hire a "slave" to "boss" around is unbelievable. Kudos to philosophy professor Byron Williston for speaking out:
The sudden closure drew criticism from many of the café’s customers. Laurier ethics professor Byron Williston penned a scathing open letter to the graduate students association, accusing them of acting like “spoiled children.”
“I suppose it’s a sign of the times, especially on university campuses whose student bodies — undergraduate and graduate — seem to have been taken over by the terminally thin-skinned and self-righteous,” Williston wrote. “Perhaps you should direct your moral outrage at some of the many real problems in the world rather than behaving like petty bullies.”
Williston said the termination was a gross overreaction to a joke, even if it was in poor taste.
“I wrote the letter because I think the operator has been morally wronged. I think it’s important for somebody to speak out for him,” he said in an interview.
Also Thursday, the regents added stronger language to a policy that faculty members already believe takes power out of their hands and places it in the hands of campus administrators.
The new language spells out that every five years, campus administrators must do "independent, substantive reviews" of tenured faculty, a process that faculty members fear could open the door to arbitrarily overturning positive performance reviews given by faculty peers, and ultimately justify a firing.
Regent Tony Evers, the state's superintendent of public instruction for K-12 schools, said the policy seemed to be "a solution seeking a problem, and I don't think this is a problem."
Many campuses are confronting issues related to the status of undocumented students, whose legal position may be threated in a Trump Administration. This letter from faculty to the U of Chicago Administration is illustrative of some of the concerns. A similar letter at Penn produced this response from University President Amy Gutmann. The good news is that Senator Lindsey Graham, a very conservative Senator from South Carolina, is already preparing legislation to protect these students whose status was protected by executive action by President Obama that Trump could repeal. He believes it will pass "overwhelmingly," which is hopeful.
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)