Kipnis has now written a book, “Unwanted Advances,” about feminism, relationship statecraft and the shadow world of Title IX investigations. It is invigorating and irritating, astute and facile, rigorous and flippant, fair-minded and score-settling, practical and hyperbolic, and maybe a dozen other neurotically contradictory things. Above all else, though, “Unwanted Advances” is necessary. Argue with the author, by all means. But few people have taken on the excesses of university culture with the brio that Kipnis has.
What is significant about the book for the academic community in philosophy is that--its occasional glibness and fascination with its own meta-narrative about alleged "sexual paranoia" on campus aside--it sets out in compelling detail two recent injustices against now-former members of the community of employed philosophers, David Barnett and Peter Ludlow. It was always clear, at least to me, that Barnett had been wrongfully treated; the Ludlow case was less clear to me, at least until I read this book and had an opportunity to read the depositions in the lawsuit brought by the undergraduate.
Some speculate that this only means they will now concentrate their energies on eliminating civil organizations which they hope will receive less attention but perhaps has more political significance as the last checks on the government. This is speculation. But the CEU situation is definitely more hopeful today.
A bit later she shared this:
[A] lengthy but very informative blogpost about latest developments re: CEU. Some good developments from the American side, and bat-shit crazy responses (and ominous warnings) from the Fidesz government:
Contrary to IHE's report, there's nothing at all surprising about this so-called "finding," given the massive self-selection effect of who takes a survey that includes "bullying" as a topic, and given the massive inflation of the concept to the point that it means nothing. As the first commenter at IHE amusingly puts it: "Does 'hostile and intimidating behavior' include being told no or just being frowned at or simply being challenged by a colleague?" I'm sure in the minds of many it does.
UPDATE: Philosopher Mike Titelbaum (Wisconsin) writes:
Just read your blog post on the UW-Madison survey results and bullying. Having taken that survey myself, I agree with many of the commentators on the IHE page that the notion of bullying in question was underspecified in the survey. I honestly was not entirely clear what I was answering. But I disagree with you that there was a "massive self-selection effect". First, when the survey was sent out, it did not describe itself as including "bullying" as a topic. One had to get well into the survey before that even came up. Second, and more importantly, if the IHE is reporting correctly, then 35% of respondents reported bullying, and the survey had a 59% response rate from faculty. So even if there was self-selection, over 20% of the total faculty reported bullying. While self-selection may have inflated the result from somewhere over 20% to the reported value of 35%, 20% is still a significant number (to the extent that reporting "bullying" is significant in any way).
Given the cultural inflation of "bullying" noted by Professor Collins (in the link, above), I still think this tells us more about cultural training in sensitivity and willingness to take offense than about actual conduct in the real world.
I was unaware of the failed Georgia legislation reported on by IHE, but I also think the article misframes the issue as being only about unfairness to the accused. The procedural infirmities of university processes--including the absence of cross-examination and the absence of counsel or even an advocate for the complainant and respondent--create huge problems for complainants as well. At this point, the one thing that is clear from the emerging pattern of litigation across the country about such investigation is that universities are ill-equipped to act as a shadow criminal justice system.
Details here. I call attention to these studies because some philosophy professors have peddled these psychological hypotheses rather uncritically, and in doing so, I suspect they have distracted attention away from the real obstacles that have faced women in academic philosophy: overt sexism and sexual harassment.
I just saw your post about what UChicago is doing to help grad students find work outside the academy. I’m not really sure what this is worth, but, in my experience, this isn’t something that philosophy grad students, at least, should get too excited about. I went to a handful of these events during my last couple years in Chicago, and didn’t find them helpful in the least. One was a sort of Q&A with a UChicago science PhD (biology, maybe?) working as a consultant, and it was very much focused on the sciences. His attitude struck me as being basically like “I mean, if you’re in the humanities, you can apply, but we’re really looking for the skills people learn doing a PhD in the sciences.” (I did apply, and didn’t get an interview.) More humanities-oriented events turn up jobs in government and non-profits that look like great options for history (and art history) PhDs. But philosophy seems to be slipping through the cracks between the other humanities and the social and natural sciences. So I ended up feeling that UChicagoGrad doesn’t do any better for philosophy PhDs than the philosophy faculty do [in helping graduates find work outside the academy]––which is to say that there’s not much help to be found. And I can’t help but feel that the whole thing (and the whole alt-ac phenomenon in general) is just a way of excusing a failure to think seriously about the real significance of the current state of the academic job market. And, again, I did try to use the resources on offer. But it wasn’t really any more helpful than talking to a random non-academic at a party.
As we learned from the updates to the earlier posting, many disability advocates have been strong enablers of the facilitated communication sham and of Stubblefield herself. And it's worse than that, as David Auerbach writes:
Despite saying they were reviewing the matter, Disability Studies Quarterly never added any sort of disclaimer to the article purportedly authored by DJ but written "through" Stubblefield via Facilitated Communication ( http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1717/1765 )
DSQ have also not added any disclaimers to Stubblefield's own article in the same issue, "Sound and Fury: When Opposition to Facilitated Communication Functions as Hate Speech" (http://dsq-sds.org/article/view/1729/1777), in which Stubblefield defends many FC advocates whom she personally knew, including FC creator Rosemary Crossley (whose testimony in favor of DJ's competence was rejected by the trial judge) and longtime FC proponent Sandra McClennen (Stubblefield's mother)."
UPDATE: Psychologist James Todd, whom we heard from previously regarding his role in the Stubblefield trial, writes with more interesting perspective:
You are right about “disabilities studies," at the least the kind we get from the Society for Disabilities Studies and its journal, Disabilities Studies Quarterly (DSQ).
The SDS conferences and its journal contain some real scholarship. But it is so infused with advocacy, fabrication, and fantasy that the legitimate items are tainted by association. DSQ also continues to accept FC as genuine communication without apparently even suggesting source validation. I suspect they know doing that would reveal the real source as the facilitator. That is, DSQ is a journal that publishes what any competent editor should assume are forgeries.
Dr. Wilson believes his actions will, in fact, help stave off further attacks on tenure by politicians and others. "Because tenure is such an unusual thing, people who don’t understand it already have suspicions about it," he said. "Then when they see stories of blatant abuses, like what I’m talking about, it really puts the whole tenure system under further risk."
Politico broke the story today. What he did is obviously plagiarism, though not the worst kind: he used without attribution another author's description of medical conditions and procedures, he did not steal the other author's main arguments and analysis. None of this is disqualifying to his nomination, but it is careless and he should acknowledge it and correct it in future editions of his book. What is most remarkable here is the nonsense from Robert George, the Princeton politics professor and all-purpose apologist for Catholic dogma, who is editor of the book series in which Gorsuch's book, with the plagiarism, appeared:
"Judge Gorsuch did not attempt to steal other people’s intellectual property or pass off ideas or arguments taken from other writers as his own," said George. "In no case did he seek credit for insights or analysis that had been purloined. In short, not only is there no fire, there isn’t even any smoke.”
I imagine this absurd defense of the plagiarism at issue will be trotted out by students across the nation now: "I only stole the words of someone else, but all the other arguments, insight, and analysis are mine!" The Politico piece suggests that John Finnis, the Oxford natural law theorist who worked with both George and Gorsuch, also weighed in on this, but I haven't seen his comments; although Finnis was, at one time, a substantial natural law theorist, he is, like George, a shameless partisan when it comes to defending his religious and political allies.
UPDATE: More details on the instances of plagiarism here. This article also includes a quote from Finnis, which gives new meaning to "shameless partisan":
"[I]n my opinion, none of the allegations has any substance or justification. In all the instances mentioned, Neil Gorsuch’s writing and citing was easily and well within the proper and accepted standards of scholarly research and writing in the field of study in which he and I work.”
The legal philosophers and law faculty at Oxford really should issue a public statement rebutting the implication that plagiarism is normal practice there.
ANOTHER: The Oxford Professor of the Philosophy of Law has responded to Professor Finnis's claim.
Not good. The reality is Hungary has no other university with any international standing other than CEU. But the fascists don't care. The question is when the EU will boot Hungary.
UPDATE: Reader Craig Larson, a mathematician, points out that "some of the best mathematicians in the world (including former International Mathematical Union president Laszlo Lovasz) are at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest." Fair enough! CEU does have a stronger international profile in the humanities and social sciences.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM MARCH 30: the Hungarian Government is fast-tracking the legislation aimed at CEU, debate likely will begin tomorrow, so the petition will be delivered in the next day or so--so please sign if you haven't already! (Thanks to Kati Balog for the update on the situation.)
Katalin Balog, Barry Loewer, and Howard Robinson have called my attention to this petition in support of CEU, which is under attack from the Orban government in Hungary. Please sign! Include your institutional affiliation in the address line. There is more information about the situation facing CEU here. And if you have a blog, repost this petition!
Data gleaned from an interesting interactive chart at CHE (behind a paywall) shows that from the end of 2007 (just before the financial crisis) to the end of 2016, many universities with huge endowments did not get richer in inflation-adjusted dollars. Harvard, for example, went from an endowment of over forty billion to one less than thirty-five billion dollars (again, adjusted for inflation)--a loss of 14% over the ten-year period! Yale lost not quite a billion dollars on its endowment during this period, representing about a 3% decline.
Several schools were basically flat during this ten-year period, including my own (Chicago), despite running a capital campaign during this time. Stanford and Princeton posted modest gains, but the really big winners included the University of Texas and Texas A&M University Sytems, which increased their endowments by roughly a third to, respectively, over 24 billion dollars and over 10 billion dollars--but per student, given the huge size of these systems, the value is much less than at the rich private schools. Among the latter, the big winners were the University of Pennsylvania, which grew its endowment by 39% (!) during this time, to nearly 11 billion dollars, and Northwestern University, which increased its endowment 27%, to just under 10 billion dollars.
At my university a decade long enrollment decline has reached a crisis point, and for twenty months (and counting) Illinois has operated without a state budget. The university is now focusing on increasing both enrollment and non-state funding, but this effort has done little to quell faculty unrest from some administrative decisions—namely layoffs.
During this tumultuous time, I have been Faculty Senate Chair. One thing that has been made abundantly clear to me is that the vast majority of faculty do not know what’s happening on campus—I call them free-riders. Free-riding faculty take little responsibility for anything beyond their classes and research. They don’t understand that student recruitment and retention is part of the job—that, in fact, our survival depends upon it.
With little faculty input, the day to day running of the university is left to administrators (often career non-academic administrators). Faculty, however, should be proactive rather than reactive to administrative decisions with which they disagree. Naturally, it is difficult to impress this upon colleagues in boom times when growth is good, and we rarely think of lean times (lay-offs, downsizing, and budget cuts).
Exacerbating the problem is a faculty tendency to forget the ideal of shared governance. Faculty must help govern the university else we become subject to administrators who may not understand the value of philosophy as a major or as part of general education curriculum.
Don’t be a free-rider:
Understand your university’s curriculum and philosophy’s place in it.
Actively participate in faculty governance.
Know the external forces that impact the health of your college or university.
Promote a positive image of faculty in your community.
MOVING TO FRONT FROM LAST YEAR (SINCE TIMELY AGAIN--originally posted March 6, 2009)
Applicants to PhD and MA programs are now receiving offers of admission and, if they are lucky, are beginning to weigh choices between different departments. I want to reiterate a point made in the PGR, namely, that students are well-advised to talk to current students at the programs they are considering. There are often things you will want to know that you won't glean from familiarity with the excellence of the faculty's work, even if that remains the most important, if defeasible, reason for choosing a particular department. Here are some examples of information that no ranking, no departmental brochure, and no "official" departmental representive will tell you about; all of these are drawn from stories I've heard from students over the last few years about ranked departments (the departments will remain unnamed, obviously). You can think of them as representing "types" of problems you should be aware of before enrolling. I've tweaked some of the details to protect identities.
The Absent Faculty: Are the faculty who look so good on paper actually around and interested in working with students? I heard a story about a key senior person in one department who is an alcoholic, and who simply ignored his students. In another department, almost all the graduate students had to sign an open letter to the faculty a number of years ago protesting the failure of faculty to return graded papers and their general lack of interest in mentoring the students. In yet another department, a well-known senior member of the faculty spent so much time travelling and lecturing around the world, that he rarely had time to review or discuss work carefully with students.
The Sexual Predator Faculty: Are women treated as young philosophers and aspiring professionals, or do faculty regularly view them as a potential source for dates and sexual liasons? It's a bit shocking to realize that this is still a live issue in some departments, but, sadly, it is. Are faculty-student sexual relations common in the department? What happens when the relations end? Are there repeated cases of sexual harassment complaints against faculty in the department? Do they ever result in discipline? I suppose it is possible this could be an issue for male students, but all the reports I've gotten over the years have been from women victimized by male faculty.
The Nasty Faculty: Talented philosophers and scholars often differ, dramatically, in how pleasant they are personally and professionally. I recall the story of one department where a member of the faculty was known to reduce students to tears in seminar. In another department, a faculty member regularly refuses to work with students, even those interested in his areas; he works only with those he deems "worthy," and there are not many of them! In another department, faculty openly express doubts about the competence of the graduate students and their ability. Make sure the philosophers who seem most interesting to you don't fall into these categories!
The Factionalized Faculty: Many faculties are "factionalized," in the sense that there are sub-groups that rarely see "eye to eye" about departmental issues, from appointments to admissions. Where this becomes worrisome, though, for a prospective student is when certain members of the faculty who share interests and approaches control all the key resources--fellowships, resources for speakers etc.--and use that control to define "in" and "out" groups of faculty and students: students with the "wrong" philosophical interests or who express an interest in the "wrong" faculty members are denied access to important perks and support. This kind of ugly factionalization is less common, but it exists.
I wish it were possible to meaningfuly measure and evaluate faculties along these important dimensions, but, alas, it is not. I have no doubt there are many programs that are really exceptional for how pleasant they are as places to do graduate study, and the way for a prospective student to discover them is to talk to lots of current students.
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: email@example.com
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.
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)