NY Times reports, including a link to the Science article. Haven't had time to read the article carefully; any readers care to comment on which results of interest to philosophers failed the reliability tests?
More on Canada's apparently most dysfunctional university. The culture of bullying clearly extends to the philosophy department, where Alan Richardson (the Chair of the Department at UBC and a longtime PGR hater, going back to 2002!) tried to bully colleagues, as we've since learned, into signing last fall's PGR boycott statement, until there was a backlash in the department--at which point Richardson had to make clear that he and Jenkins didn't want to force anyone to sign. Once that happened, five members of the Department who had signed prior to the release of the statement withdrew their names just days before its publication! (Amusingly, outside UBC, David Velleman also withdrew his name too: he obviously realized it was absurd to suggest that my derisive e-mail to Carrie Jenkins after she threatened me was especially "harmful" because of my role in the PGR.)
More here. Another hopeful sign--Chancellor Wise is gone, Board Chair Chris Kennedy is gone, now the Provost. With the original micreants out of the way, this will make it much easier to reach a settlement with Salaita, involving reinstatement, and rescuing the reputation of the University (and saving it millions).
This rather odd piece is making the rounds (thanks to reader David Zimmerman for sending it to me initially). It is titled, "5 Reasons to Be Skeptical of 'Campus Coddling' Scare Pieces," alluding to this. Oddly, though, there's only one actual reason given, since the other four points are irrelevant to whether or not these "scare pieces" are accurate. Here are the five purported reasons:
1. Most of the examples to support these pieces are purely anecdotal
True, but what in the world would data even look like in this context? And the denial that there is a problem is, of course, anecdotal too. What's clear by now is that there are a lot of anecdotes from a lot of different places; if they have anything in common that would caution against generalizing it is that they come overwhelmingly from elite colleges and universities, which probably have disproportionate numbers of coddled, spoiled narcissists in the student body.
2. Conservatives are in fact more likely to be “sensitive” and “babyish” about content, yet all the alarm is about liberalism.
Even if this were true, it would be irrelevant to the claims about the "New Infantilism" on campus. But is it true? The author offers this further non-sequitur:
A recent op-ed in the Washington Post also used facts and numbers to push back on the idea that “political correctness” was a left-wing phenomenon. Citing a survey about censorship, Catherine Rampell noted that: “In almost every category, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to endorse book bans.” Why is no one calling these censorious types squeamish babies who demand to be coddled?
Well, for one things, the attempts to ban books are not happening at colleges, typically, but at the pre-collegiate public schools, and one typically calls those trying to ban books more unpleasant names, e.g., "fascists" or "the Texas Taliban."
3. There may be real ways that millennials have a different cultural outlook, but no one is exploring the cause and effect of technology and culture on that outlook.
The question is how widespread the New Infantilism is, the question about its cause is separate, so this is irrelevant.
4. There are crises in academia, but they are not solely curricular or student-caused.
The author mentions the problems confronting adjuncts, as one example. Who could disagree? But the truth of the presence of the New Infantilism on college campuses does not depend on whether there are other more serious crises in the academy.
5. PTSD is not a being a baby.
No one called those suffering from PTSD "babies." Someone with PTSD is entitled to systematic accomodations under the Americans with Disabilites Act, and should receive them.
Given how absurdly unresponsive this piece is, one might note that another problem confronting universities is graduating nitwits who can't reason--though, as a friend on facebook quipped, for a site called "flavorwire," coming up with one feeble reason out of five alleged ones isn't bad!
Corey Robin recounts the increasingly bizarre and ironic saga. (Her son, by the way, is a partner at a major law firm; I'm guessing she will get some gratis help on this one.) She's, of course, right to seek legal counsel under the circumstances. So was Steve Salaita, and that has worked out well for him--maybe the former Chancellor was inspired by his example?
UPDATE: Talk of lawyers had the desired effect, at least in part: the Board has accepted Wise's resignation, and will not move to dismiss her. Will she sue over the $400,000? Unlikely, as she claims she was going to gift it anyway to the new medical school.
Over at the FP blog, there is someone described (opaquely) as "having some expertise in law and philosophy." Is the person a lawyer? I'm not sure. Is it one person or several (the FP blog refers to the pseudonym as "they"). In any case, in the post at issue, the procedural posture of the recent events in the Salaita lawsuit is correctly described. But buried in the rather pedantic discussion of the procedures comes this gem:
(Pardon a brief detour in the discussion. Looming over the entire process is settlement. Discovery is very costly, so the University may be especially motivated to settle now that their motion to dismiss has been denied. Suppose that the University wants to depose 10 people, and suppose each deposition takes 8 hours. Depending on who is taking the deposition, the hourly billable rate might be anywhere from $450 to upwards of $1000. Suppose it’s something in the middle, maybe $700. Just the deposition time itself — setting aside preparation time and assuming that it’s just this one lawyer doing all the work — will cost the University $56,000. That’s a new professor’s salary or a few graduate student stipends for a year and that’s just taking depositions. There will also be time spent defending depositions (what the University will do when their witnesses are being deposed, which amounts to sitting there and occasionally objecting for the record), collecting and reviewing documents, and preparing for trial. The high costs of litigation may often make settlements a good economic proposition for both parties, which is why reading anything about the merits into the existence or amount of a settlement alone, as some did after the University of Colorado settled with David Barnett, is disfavored.)
That last line is obviously a reference to my (correct) diagnosis of the Barnett case But I did wonder, who exactly is it that "disfavors" drawing inferences from the terms of a settlement? Certainly not anyone familiar with the law or lawsuits. Indeed, even FP's "they" are in favor of drawing inferences: after all, the point of noting the costs of discovery is to suggest that sometimes lawsuits settle simply for economic reasons. No one, of course, denied that cost-benefit calculations go into settlements, though they don't work in the simple-minded way "their" discussion suggests: after all, it just isn't the case that a university's budget for litigation is fungible with its instructional budget. And the more important point, which I made in connection with the Barnett settlement, is that universities can almost always afford to litigate longer than individuals: all the economic considerations typically force individuals to settle for less when litigating against institutional actors. That's why the terms of the Barnett settlement were so striking: not only a cash payout, and a forgiven loan, but payment of a substantial portion of Barnett's attorney fees. Against the backdrop of Colorado's Title IX troubles (described in my post), and no evidence of wrongdoing by Barnett that would justify revocation of tenure, the inference to the best explanation of what happened is plainly the one I offered. The only relevant question is whether there is a better explanation; it certainly isn't "theirs."
But back to Salaita: although "they" describe the procedural posture of the case correctly, they omit all the relevant strategic considerations that now kick in. The University wants to avoid discovery, which will be hugely embarrassing, even more embarrassing than what's already come out. The most potent claims in Salaita's lawsuit survived the motion to dismiss. If, as seems very likely, Salaita establishes the facts alleged in the complaint for the breach of contract claim, he will win a motion for summary judgment before the judge who decided the motion to dismiss claim. The lawyers for the University of Illinois understand all this. This is why, as I said a few days ago, I predict a settlement before the calendar year is out, and I would not be surprised if it includes reinstatement for Prof. Salaita, which will save the University millions of dollars in monetary damages (as well as legal costs).
.,.in a long piece by a lawyer and a psychologist (Jonathan Haidt). They coin the apt term "vindictive protectiveness" to describe the behavior of the enforcers of this infantilization (anyone watching philosophy cyberspace will be familiar with the phenomenon). The article itself is a mixed bag, as one would expect given Haidt's involvement. But they do make some interesting points; for example:
Because there is a broad ban in academic circles on “blaming the victim,” it is generally considered unacceptable to question the reasonableness (let alone the sincerity) of someone’s emotional state, particularly if those emotions are linked to one’s group identity. The thin argument “I’m offended” becomes an unbeatable trump card. This leads to what Jonathan Rauch, a contributing editor at this magazine, calls the “offendedness sweepstakes,” in which opposing parties use claims of offense as cudgels. In the process, the bar for what we consider unacceptable speech is lowered further and further
Since 2013, new pressure from the federal government has reinforced this trend. Federal antidiscrimination statutes regulate on-campus harassment and unequal treatment based on sex, race, religion, and national origin. Until recently, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights acknowledged that speech must be “objectively offensive” before it could be deemed actionable as sexual harassment—it would have to pass the “reasonable person” test. To be prohibited, the office wrote in 2003, allegedly harassing speech would have to go “beyond the mere expression of views, words, symbols or thoughts that some person finds offensive.”
But in 2013, the Departments of Justice and Education greatly broadened the definition of sexual harassment to include verbal conduct that is simply “unwelcome.” Out of fear of federal investigations, universities are now applying that standard—defining unwelcome speech as harassment—not just to sex, but to race, religion, and veteran status as well. Everyone is supposed to rely upon his or her own subjective feelings to decide whether a comment by a professor or a fellow student is unwelcome, and therefore grounds for a harassment claim. Emotional reasoning is now accepted as evidence.
If our universities are teaching students that their emotions can be used effectively as weapons—or at least as evidence in administrative proceedings—then they are teaching students to nurture a kind of hypersensitivity that will lead them into countless drawn-out conflicts in college and beyond. Schools may be training students in thinking styles that will damage their careers and friendships, along with their mental health.
As the newly released e-mails show, these two geniuses (Burbules and Tolliver) aided and abetted and rationalized the unlawful behavior by the Chancellor. The University of Illinois may be rid of Wise (who comes across as a remarkable lightweight in these e-mails), but no one there should rest easy until these two miscreants are removed from all administrative positions.
UPDATE: Corey Robin points out one e-mail in which Chancellor Wise admits to trying to destroy and conceal what would otherwise be discoverable evidence. Not smart, or prudent. That admission will be costly, I expect.
...but only if the Reading staff are successful in challenging the latest neoliberal mischief. As events in Wisconsin show, this ugliness may be coming to America too. It would help the cause if termination for cause were the norm, not the exception, but the ruling class would not welcome that.
Good riddance (and for those who missed last year's events, see this). Today's court decision (in favor of Salaita)--obviously right and predicted long ago--is no doubt the explanation. I may not get a chance to digest the opinion for a few days, but when I do, I'll post some more (if there's anything particulary interesting).
(Thanks to Jason Stanley for the tip on the court decision.)
ADDENDUM: Well, I read a good chunk of the opinion, it is well-done and devastating for the university: the breach of contract claim survives, the promissory estoppel claims survives (though in the end, Salaita can only prevail on one or the other--the breach of contract is the better claim, and he will prevail on it), and the claimed violation of his First Amendment rights survives the motion to dismiss. For my earlier discussions, see this (on the constitutional issues) and this (on the contractual ones). This is a good day for the American justice system and a bad day for the miscreants at the University of Illinois. I predict a settlement before 2015 is over, and I now would not be surprised if it included reinstatement of Salaita (that's how bad the court's decision is for the University).
ANOTHER: The CHE headline misdescribes the court decision (the article does not). On a motion to dismiss, the only question is whether, taking the facts as alleged by the plaintiff, they state legal causes of action. Thus, the court asked the question: if the facts are as Salaita alleges, does he have a valid breach of contract claim, and the court gave that a resoundingly affirmative answer (coming pretty close to ridiculing the university's position that there wasn't really a contract). The breach of contract and the First Amendment claims are Salaita's most potent in terms of damages. It was obviously agreed in advance that Chancellor Wise would step down given an adverse decision, presumably because the University knows that the outrageousness of her conduct will be exposed to view once discovery begins and presumably also thinking that it will be easier to settle with Salaita once they are rid of the University official who said, "We will not hire him." My bet is that, in order to block discovery, which would throw open to public view the bad behavior of many actors behind the scenes, and in order to avoid the damages attached to losing the breach of contract and First Amendment claims (which they would almost certainly lose, and for which the damages could easily amount to compensation for his entire career, i.e., 35 years of salary and benefits, plus additional damages for the constitutional claims), the University will now try to reach a settlement in which he is reinstated (subject to some face-saving terms for the University, like Salaita promising not to scare students in the classroom), and compensation is limited to damages for the last year plus his attorney fees. This is a very good day for tenure, for contracts, and for free speech.
AUGUST 10 UPDATE: Rob Kar, a law professor at the University of Illinois, has a good discussion of the contract law issues.
According to this piece, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh are high on the list, though not, as far as I can tell, in philosophy, no doubt due to language barriers and the Anglo-centric parochialism of the field in the Anglophone countries.
Another interestingly provocative e-mail from longtime reader S. Wallerstein, regarding the identity politics "left":
They've been very successful at imposing their hegemony on the left, especially in the U.S., so that they are the only "queer" people, so that they are always victims and that of course coincides with the rise of neoliberalism and the bourgeois offensive against the working class. It just suits Wall St. fine that the paradigm of oppression is no longer the guy or woman working for the minimum wage, but a disabled lesbian philosopher who didn't get tenure at an elite university. And most of us, myself included, feel very uncomfortable not being on the side of the victims, but there are victims and there are victims. I don't want to sound cynical, but if I were Wall St., I'd fund all leftwing identity politics groups to distract leftwing attention from class politics, just as the CIA during the cold war funded all groups defending "cultural freedom" behind the Iron Curtain.
A philosopher in the University of Wisconsin sytem writes:
I'm writing to ask if you'd be willing to host a thread focused specifically on the question about strategy, raised by harry b in a comment on The Republican war on public higher education: it's now the law in Wisconsin, concerning "what we [who want to protect public higher education] should be doing to change the minds of voters so that they put the break on the politicians." I'd be very interested to see discussion of this pressing issue, which should be of broad interest and concern.
This case from California. Unfortunately, we'll no doubt be seeing more such cases once professional jurists with some regard for process are increasingly asked to scrutinize how universities (mis)handle these matters.
Via IHE. I'm very pleased to see that he will have gainful academic employment, I hope it will turn into something more permanent, assuming that the University of Illinois is not required legally to rehire him.
Signatories include, besides Sarkar, John Dupre (Exeter), Paul Griffiths (Sydney), Samir Okasha (Bristol), Alex Rosenberg (Duke), and Rob Wilson (Alberta), among others. The letter offers a variety of considerations, some political, some practical/logistical. I am opening this for (substantive) discussion.
UPDATE: The jury found against the instructor, presumably meaning they did not find there was enough evidence that she was denied the job because of her political viewpoint. She certainly had enough evidence in her favor to warrant a trial, but unlike the Salaita case, the evidence was decidedly more mixed. (Thanks to Thomas Gallanis for the pointer.)
...since, after all, if your views are offensive, you are not entitled to be employed, right? Peter Singer is, by my lights, a pernicious presence in philosophy, but my lights or the lights of disability activists are irrelevant to whether he should be employed. This is what academic freedom means: academics can hold views that you think are appalling, stupid, worthless. Maybe you are right, and maybe you are not. But the lifeblood of the academy is insulation from such outbursts of indignation.
This latest outburst doesn't really matter, of course--Singer has weathered worse. But it is symptomatic of something dangerous.
...she had asked if I wanted to post more about this, and I declined (she found a taker, needless to say). Kipnis was wronged by the frivolous Title IX retaliation complaint. The students responsible are suffering for their unfortunate decision. No good will come of prolonging this. The comments on Kipnis's response are mostly and predictably stupid (though there are a few adult responses later on, see, e.g., "DC" and "Andy Metz"). (ADDENDUM: Just to be clear, I fully understand why Prof. Kipnis wanted to reply, given the misleading accusations being made against her.)
UPDATE: Philippe Lemoine writes:
While I understand why you didn't want to publish Kipnis's reply to the student who filed a complaint against her, I wish you had and had opened comment for people to discuss it, for the way in which Prof. Weinberg has been moderating this discussion is quite scandalous. Several of my comments have been censored and, when asked why by email, Prof. Weinberg gave me reasons that were patently fallacious.
I was in particular noting that, despite what many people assume (including apparently Kipnis), nothing in the public record indicate that the graduate student who accused Ludlow of rape denied that she had previously been dating him. Not even Pogin, in the ridiculous letter that she sent to Kipnis, said that. Yet, if the graduate student had denied that she had at some point been dating Ludlow, Pogin would presumably be in a position to know that.
In fact, in his complaint against Northwestern and the graduate student in question, Ludlow claims not just that he was in a relationship with her, but that she admitted as much both in her complaint against him and in answering the questions of the private investigator hired by the university to investigate it. Of course, he could lie about that, but it strikes me as rather unlikely given how easily this could be verified.
Prof. Weinberg justified his decision of censoring the comment where I was making this point by claiming that I was suggesting that the graduate student was lying about the nature of her relationship with Ludlow, when it's clear that I did nothing of the sort, since the central point I was making is that nothing in the public record indicates that she denied that she had previously been dating him.
When I read so many established philosophers defending the anonymous graduate student who justified the frivolous complaint that s/he filed against Kipnis on Daily Nous, I have to assume that they only do so out of a misguided desire to protect a student and not because they actually agree with the complete nonsense s/he wrote, otherwise this profession is really in trouble.
One small comment: since no one has a presumptive entitlement to their comment appearing here on any other blog, I don't think "censorship" is the relevant issue. But I do think, given that I've heard from others that certain points are being excluded from the debate elsewhere, that it is worthwhile to open comments here, though I will edit and/or moderate for relevance and constructive content. Comments on either side of this issue are of course welcome.
One of the complainants apparently believes that factual errors in Kipnis's first article--which the complainant believes were significant and harmful, but which seem to Kipnis (and many other readers, myself included) minor and largely beside the point--somehow justify the filing of a Title IX "retaliation" complaint. They do not, and they should not. This student is getting terrible advice, and only digging her hole deeper. The only sensible response to events of the last week is a mea culpa for having abused Title IX by filing a frivolous retaliation complaint against lawful speech by a faculty member with no professional or other connection with the graduate student victim of sexual harassment.
...this time at CHE (behind their paywall). It does contain some new information (new to me, at least, I had not seen this previously) about the rape complaint against Peter Ludlow: it says "the university found him responsible for sexual harassment" but not rape. It also reports that, "Northwestern has banned him from the campus, [Ludlow] said, and has scheduled a hearing for next month on whether he should be fired."
The University of Wisconsin System would see $250 million in cuts and sweeping changes in its operations, under a proposal put forward by GOP lawmakers Friday that would still be less dramatic than changes proposed by Gov. Scott Walker.
Lawmakers on the Legislature's budget committee are poised to reduce Walker's controversial proposed cuts to the UW System from $300 million over two years to $250 million, which UW System leaders praised, but faculty members on campuses said was not nearly enough. The extra $50 million would be distributed to campuses around the state that are judged by UW leaders to be hardest hit by the cuts, according to a GOP motion.
The Joint Finance Committee would continue for another two years the freeze on tuition for undergraduate state residents that was proposed by the governor and likely 2016 presidential candidate.
In addition, the provisions of academic tenure for professors would no longer be included in state law. The UW Board of Regents could choose to retain tenure under its rules or decline to do so, which would allow it to lay off any faculty in cases of budget difficulties or changes to academic programs.
The hypocrisy is that they reduce funding but freeze tuition: they should take their own neoliberal ideology seriously. Let the University of Wisconsin be a private university, which is what it's becoming. Let it charge what the fabled "market" will bear, but don't slash its funding and freeze its tuition, that's just hypocrisy and cowardice. Let the universities raise salaries to compensate for eliminating tenure, since tenure is the single most important form of non-monetary compensation faculty receive.
Unless the Neanderthal Scott Walker and the Repugs in Wisconsin are soundly defeated, this is America's future.
UPDATE: More on the legislative attack on tenure and other mischief. Comments open for more information, insight, perspective.
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)