What Happens to Democracy When the Experts Can't Be Both Factual and Balanced?
Does democracy require journalists and educators to strive for political balance? I’m hardly alone in thinking the answer is "yes." But it also requires them to present the facts as they understand them — and when it is not possible to be factual and balanced at the same time, democratic institutions risk collapse.
Consider the problem abstractly. Democracy X is dominated by two parties, Y and Z. Party Y is committed to the truth of propositions A, B and C, while Party Z is committed to the falsity of A, B and C. Slowly the evidence mounts: A, B and C look very likely to be false. Observers in the media and experts in the education system begin to see this, but the evidence isn’t quite plain enough for non-experts, especially if those non-experts are aligned with Party Y and already committed to A, B and C....
A little over two years ago, more than 600 philosophers petitioned the American Philosophical Association to “produce a code of conduct and a statement of professional ethics for the academic discipline of Philosophy.” The immediate motivation for the petition was several high-profile cases of sexual misconduct by philosophers, which together amplified what many viewed—rightly, in our estimation—as a widespread and endemic culture of hostility, predation, exploitation, and intimidation within the profession. Shortly thereafter, in March 2014, we co-authored a piece entitled “Please Do NOT Revise Your Tone,” articulating our concerns about the problematic effects of tone-policing, generally, and about the drafting and institution of a “Code of Conduct” by the APA, specifically. In that piece, we argued that there was good reason to worry that such a Code would:
1) impose a disproportionate burden of changing their behavior to "fit in" on those who are members of out- (that is, underrepresented or minority) groups within the profession; 2) likely be applied disproportionately against those expressing dissenting views or criticizing colleagues for lapses in judgment or perception; and 3) tend to reinforce or provide opportunities to reiterate the structures of privilege and exclusion already operating within the profession.
The Executive Board of the APA subsequently decided in favor of producing the document and, earlier this week, published the final version of the discipline’s official “Code of Conduct” here.
Reading that document over, our original worries remain unassuaged and unabated, if not also intensified. We are especially concerned now that this quasi-official document—which elaborates a set of norms, but does not include any mechanisms for enforcement, adjudication, or sanction—will inevitably be used at the local (department-, college-, or university) level in unofficial, ad-hoc ways to undermine or sabotage already vulnerable members of the profession. Worse, we worry that this document will provide pretext for attempts to pressure APA members by complaining to their employers that they have in some instance or another behaved ‘unprofessionally.’ We recognize that any law or regulative code as such allows for the possibility of perverse application, but we maintain that the current iteration of this Code of Conduct is particularly susceptible to manipulation for a number of reasons.
As I remarked on Facebook yesterday, there is a lot of spectacular mendacity involved in the current crisis at Mount Saint Mary's Unviersity. As of yesterday, the University's provost has been forced to resign, and two faculty members have been summarily fired, one a tenured associate professor of philosophy and another an untenured professor of law. The justification for these firings, where available, made explicit reference to violating a "duty of loyalty," which adds to the already overwhelming impression that they come in retaliation for the exposure of the university president's plan to cull incoming students deemed likely to leave school without completing their first year before the school was required to report enrollment data to the federal government.* As a whole, the case is outrageous—and one hopes that these firings will be reversed, that the president and any board members who engineered them will be forced to resign, and that the principles of academic freedom, tenure, and the university's contractual obligations to its employees and its pedagogical obligations to its students that have been abrogated in the whole mess will be restored, reaffirmed, and strengthened. (Anyone who hasn't should consider signing the petition begun by John Schwenkler, located here.)
But while our attention is held by outrage over what is happening to these faculty and the cavalier attitude toward students reflected in the plan, we run the risk of overlooking the way that this case is an instance of a much more general problem. With the rise of various forms of quantitative assessment protocols (many of which, in practice, have been implemented ad hoc, and not always by folks with the training or expertise to produce reliable social science), we have also gotten a substantial increase in pressure to improve performance on such metrics, and thus to improve one's position on the rankings that are inevitably derived from them—rankings which have very real consequences for institutions, both in terms of their ability to recruit students (and their tuition) and in terms of other funding flows, like federal student aid money.
As is being widely reported, Steven Salaita has settled with UIUC, which has agreed to pay him $875,000 (some of which will resolve his legal fees). The press release from the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has represented Prof. Salaita, is here. A bit more detail about the trustees' meeting where the settlement was approved can be found here.
Prof. Salaita has not been reappointed to the faculty at UIUC as a result of this settlement. This is certainly disappointing, especially for his supporters at UIUC. But in assessing the significance of this outcome, it should be borne in mind that it is apparently rare, even when cases reach a litigated conclusion, for judges to force employers to reinstate employees who have been wrongfully terminated. The fact that Prof. Salaita has received significant compensation does constitute, then, as his attorney points out, "an implicit admission of the strength of Professor Salaita’s constitutional and contractual claims."
We should, and I certainly do, offer Prof Salaita congratulations for the vindication he has received and thank him for being willing to fight for a number of principles that are of great importance to all of us working and studying in the academy. I also think it is important to acknowledge the many faculty at UIUC who have supported Prof. Salaita, borne the burden of the academic boycott, and all too often seen their departments and programs suffer significant retaliation. One would certainly hope that, as part of UIUC's efforts to have the AAUP censure lifted, it will move to ameliorate the damage that has been done to its departments and programs, especially the American Indian Studies program.
Finally, for those who have questions regarding the status of the philosophers' boycott in light of this settlement, John Protevi has made the following suggestion, which I endorse:
While I was not in any sense the "director" or what have you of the philosopher's boycott, I was a catalyst, so I think I should say something here.
Unfortunately, there was some inconsistency in my statements: the letter sent to UIUC and BOT officials said "until Professor Salaita is reinstated" whereas many of the blog posts which alerted people to the boycott effort said "until an equitable resolution is reached." On reflection the latter standard seems the right one to me, but people should make up their own minds here.
Update: Kirk Sanders, Chair of the Department of Philosophy at UIUC, has released a statement regarding the Boycott, which you can read here.
Update 2: There is a statement calling on the AAUP not to lift its censure of UIUC until some of the problems at the institution which remain unaddressed by the settlement are resolved. Those interested in signing may add their names here.
Update 3: Salaita himself has a long piece in The Nation, reflecting both on the significance of this settlement and articulating his sense of what remains to be done at UIUC, throughout the larger academic institution, and in the broader political sphere.
Update 4: Corey Robin posts a useful corrective to those inclined to see something wrong with Salaita's decision to settle the case—which, again, I wholeheartedly endorse.
There is probably an interesting post to be written on the moral standing of the scapegoat — on whether, that is, being put in the position to take a disproportionate share of the blame for something, or even simply to shield other guilty parties from blame, entitles one to claim that one has been treated unjustly. Interesting, that is, from the point of view of the universal seminar room.
But we’re not in seminar, and this is not that post. Instead, I want to do two things that seem more timely and important in the real context of the events that are unfolding this week.
First, I want to pick up on a point that Corey Robin has been making a lot recently, and to which he devoted a whole post this morning, namely that we would be making a major mistake to allow Phyllis Wise, now a fairly obvious scapegoat, to successfully plead for some measure of our sympathy—obviously despite the fact that she played a material role in the genuinely unjust treatment to which Steven Salaita has been subjected.
Yesterday brought two major developments relating to Steven Salaita's firing by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
First came the news that the U.S. District Court in Chicago ruled to uphold the validity all of Steven Salaita's key legal claims, rejecting the University's motion to dismiss them. This does not mean, of course, that the claims have been adjudicated in Salaita's favor. But it does mean, as Brian Leiter helpfully explains here, that "taking the facts as alleged by the plaintiff, [the claims] state legal causes of action." The claims in question allege promissory estoppel, breach of contract, and violation of Salaita's first amendment rights.
Secondly, UIUC Chancellor Phyllis Wise announced her resignation and return to the faculty, effective August 12. It is difficult to imagine that her resignation (with a transition time of less than one week) is not a more or less direct result of the above legal developments.
Corey Robin has a rundown of and commentary upon all these developments which is well worth reading. And of course, hearty congratulations to Dr. Salaita, his legal team, and his many supporters. Yesterday was a good day for academic freedom.
Readers may recall that last December we co-hosted an open letter in opposition to a draconian law that had been instituted in Macedonia, substantially abridging the autonomy the country's universities (more info here). The letter ended up with more than 100 signatures, of which more than 50 came through New APPS.
A little while ago, I received an email update about the situation from Katerina Kolozova, Professor of Philosophy, Gender Studies and Sociology at University American College-Skopje. The news is good: the law has been suspended and, negotiations have begun between the government and the 'Student Plenums' that have been organizing against the law.
Professor Kolozova writes:
Dear friends, Thank you so much for supporting us! And it hasn't been in vain. The plenums have won today: the law on higher education against which we have protested for months, against which we have been occupying universities, writing legal analyses we had no place to present except the social media, combating the Government propaganda through arguments presented on our blogs, Twitter and Facebook, the law which practically killed the university autonomy has been abolished. The Parliament voted a three year moratorium two weeks ago, and today the negotiations between the ministries and the plenums kicked off based on a concept proposed by the Plenums.
Thank you again for your signatures of support. They helped incredibly!
I would like to congratulate all the organizers, especially those on the ground who have worked for months to prevent this law from taking effect, but also those who have been working internationally to support them. And I would like to echo Professor Kolozova's thanks to all who signed on here and elsewhere in support of the campaign.
How we ought to understand the terms "civility" and "collegiality" and to what extent they can be enforced as professional norms are dominating discussions in academic journalism and the academic blogosphere right now. (So much so, in fact, that it's practically impossible for me to select among the literally hundreds of recent articles/posts and provide for you links to the most representative here.) Of course, the efficient cause of civility/collegiality debates' meteoric rise to prominence is the controversy surrounding Dr. Steven Salaita's firing (or de-hiring, depending on your read of the situation) by the University of Illinois only a month ago, but there are a host of longstanding, deeply contentious and previously seething-just-below-the-surface agendas that have been given just enough air now by the Salaita case to fan their smoldering duff into a blazing fire.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll just note here at the start that I articulated my concerns about (and opposition to) policing norms of civility/collegiality or otherwise instituting "codes" to enforce such norms some months ago (March 2014) in a piece I co-authored with Edward Kazarian on this blog here (and reproduced on the NewAPPS site) entitled "Please do NOT revise your tone." My concern was then, as it remains still today, that instituting or policing norms of civility/collegiality is far more likely to protect objectionable behavior/speech by those who already possess the power to avoid sanction and, more importantly, is likely to further disempower those in vulnerable professional positions by effectively providing a back-door manner of sanctioning what may be their otherwise legitimately critical behaviors/speech. I'm particularly sympathetic to the recent piece "Civility is for Suckers" in Salon by David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford) who retraces the case-history of civility and free speech and concludes, rightly in my view, that "civility is in the eye of the powerful."
On Friday Sept. 5, Chancellor Dirks of UC Berkeley circulated an open statement to his campus community that sought to define the limits of appropriate debate at Berkeley. Issued as the campus approaches the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, Chancellor Dirks' statement, with its evocation of civility, echoes language recently used by the Chancellor of the University of Illinois, Urbana and the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois (especially its Chair Christopher Kennedy) concerning the refused appointment of Steven Salaita. It also mirrors language in the effort by the University of Kansas Board of Regents to regulate social media speech and the Penn State administration's new statement on civility. Although each of these administrative statements have responded to specific local events, the repetitive invocation of "civil" and "civility" to set limits to acceptable speech bespeaks a broader and deeper challenge to intellectual freedom on college and university campuses.
CUCFA Board has been gravely concerned about the rise of this discourse on civility in the past few months, but we never expected it to come from the Chancellor of UC Berkeley, the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement. To define “free speech and civility” as “two sides of the same coin,” and to distinguish between “free speech and political advocacy” as Chancellor Dirk does in his text, not only turns things upside down, but it does so in keeping with a relentless erosion of shared governance in the UC system, and the systemic downgrading of faculty’s rights and prerogatives. Chancellor Dirks errs when he conflates free speech and civility because, while civility and the exercise of free speech may coexist harmoniously, the right to free speech not only permits, but is designed to protect uncivil speech. Similarly, Chancellor Dirks is also wrong when he affirms that there exists a boundary between “free speech and political advocacy” because political advocacy is the apotheosis of free speech, and there is no “demagoguery” exception to the First Amendment.
Especially given the attention we've paid to the case here (see our new tag, and also Samir's posts here and here, and Eric Schwitzgebel's here), it is important to note that Steven Salaita had a press conference today, at which he issued this following statement.
The full audio of the statement and the press conference is here. And in addition, there's a short video (embedded below) of Salaita addressing two of the core questions that have been raised in the affair, that of the nature of his engagements on Twitter and that of his approach in the classroom.
[Update: here is the full video of the event, including Salaita's full statement and the press conference.]
Finally, as many of you surely know, the Board of Trustees at UIUC is meeting on Thursday. This is a very crucial day, and it is important to produce as many visible expressions of support as possible in advance of the Trustees' meeting. If you have not already done so, there is still time for you to email the Trustees. Corey Robin's post on how to do so is here. Also, John Protevi is managing the philospher's boycott statement (see here for info on how to add your name).
Following a suggestion from a friend that some of what’s come to light about the roles of the administration and the board in the Salaita affair might not be consistent with accrediting principles regarding shared governance, I decided to check out the specific rules that UIUC is supposed to be operating under.
The upshot of my survey, which I'll explain in detail below, is that UIUC is at least generally bound to respect principles of academic freedom and shared governance by their accreditation regime, and more specifically, that 1) the Board of Trustees is bound to remain free of undue influence by donors and other exteranl parties where this is contrary to the interests of the university, and 2) that the Board and the Administration are bound to let the faculty oversee academic matters. These last two considerations seem to create a real problem given what we now know about the role of external donor pressure on the board and about the way in which the Trustees and the Chancellor seem to have avoided any consultation with the faculty in making the decision to 'dehire' Salaita. (For those who need an update, your best bet is to read Corey Robin's blog, especially this post.)
In constructing the analogy I noted Professor F, like Salaita, had a distinguished academic record, that she worked in a field which often featured polemically charged debates, many of which for her, because of her personal standing and situation–Professor F has very likely experienced considerable sexism in her time–were likely to be charged emotionally, and that a few hyperbolic, intemperate responses, made in a medium not eminently suited to reasonable discourse, and featuring many crucial limitations in its affordance of sustained intellectual engagement, should not disqualify her from an academic appointment made on the basis of her well-established scholarship and pedagogy.
I could very easily have constructed another analogy, using an accomplished professor of African American studies, Professor B, who stepping into the Ferguson debate, after engaging, dispiritingly, time and again, in his personal and academic life, with not just the bare facts of racism in American life and the depressing facts pertaining to informal, day-to-day segregation but also with a daily dose of bad news pertaining to the fate of young black men in America, might finally experience the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back, and respond with a few tweets as follows:
As someone who has spent the better part of her career researching, analyzing and teaching not only about the structure and nature of oppressive power regimes, but also better and worse ways to resist or transform such regimes, I've nevertheless been unable to settle in my own mind, to my own satisfaction, my position with regard to the moral or political value of revolutionary violence. I can say that my core moral intuitions (for whatever those are worth) definitely incline me toward favoring nonviolence as a principled ethical commitment... though, over the years, I have found those intuitive inclinations fading in both intensity and persuasiveness. As a philosopher, a citizen and a moral agent, I continue to be deeply unsettled by my own ambivalence on this matter.
First, a preliminary autobiographical anecdote: I spent a year between undergraduate and gradate school in the nonprofit sector, as the Director of the M.K.Gandhi Institute for the Study of Nonviolence. (That was back in 2000, when the Gandhi Institute was still housed at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, which is now my academic home, evidencing the kind of bizarro turn-of-fate that can only be credited to some particularly clever-- or ironically humorous-- supernatural bureaucrat.) I went to the Gandhi Institute initially because nonviolence was an all-but-unquestioned moral virtue for me at the time. But, after a few years in graduate school and consistently since, the many and varied until-then-unposed questions about the moral or political legitimacy of violence pressed their way to the fore of my mind. In roughly chronological order, I'd say that the combination of (1) my first real engagement with Frantz Fanon's argument in "Concerning Violence" (from his Wretched of the Earth), the arguments by Marx (and Marxists) in various texts advocating more or less violent revolution, and Noam Chomsky's considerations of the same, (2) my extensive research into human rights violations, transitional justice and transitional democracies, postcolonial theory, feminist theory and critical race theory, which collectively constituted the subject of my dissertation, (3) the radically dramatic shift in what counts as properly-speaking "political" and/or "revolutionary" violence in the post-9/11 world and (4) my own experiences, from near and afar, with the increasing number of (threatened, proto-, aborted, defeated and/or more-or-less successful) revolutions taking place in my adult lifetime (e.g., OWS, the Arab Spring and, much closer to home and far less violent, the current and ongoing academic revolution surrounding the Salaita case), all worked together to contribute to my rethinking the merits and demerits of violence as a way of resisting/combatting/correcting oppressive, exclusionary or otherwise unjust power regimes.
[Update 2: The report on which this discussion has been based is now being called into question. UIUC English Professor Ted Underwood tweets as follows: "@Ted_Underwood: Regret to say that last night's report from students appears premature. Faculty have since met with Wise, & report no change in position."]
[Update: Thanks to John Protevi for providing the correspondence address for the UIUC Board of Trustees in the comments below.]
Yesterday evening, reports began to emerge that University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise has forwarded Steven Salaita's appointment to the University's Board of Trustees, who will vote on it at their meeting ten days from now, on September 11th.
Obviously, this is a hopeful sign, given that the Chancellor's position until how has been to refuse to submit the appointment to the board—as Corey Robin puts the point, what amounts to a 'pocket veto.' That said, it's difficult to feel too much confidence that the process now underway is intended or should be expected to terminate in the restoration of Professor Salaita's position. Robin has spent some time parsing a couple of scenrios here; but the key thing to recognize, as John Protevi also noticed very quickly last night, is that this could easily be a move that the University is legally required to make or that it would be in its best interest to make if it wants to avoid being sued for denying Salaita due process.
Nevertheless, as Robin points out in his post, these developments also mean that those supporting the causes of academic freedom and faculty governance* in this case now have an important opportunity: ten days in which to bring maximum pressure on the Trustees to vote in favor of Salaita's appointment. In other words, the game is still on, and it must continue to be.
As I write this, at least 543 philosophers have signed our disciplinary pledge to boycott UIUC until this matter is resolved in Salaita's favor—see this post by Eric Schwitzgebel, where he explains his rationale for honoring the boycott.** Please consider adding your name if you have not yet done so. Additionally, please consider writing to the trustees directly expressing your support for Salaita's appointment, as well as your sense of the cost to the Unviersity's reputation should it fail to respect the principles of academic freedom and faculty governance in this case.
I rarely post on hot political topics (unless quantitative analysis of philosophers' lack of diversity counts), but one hot political topic has been very much in my mind this week: the boycott of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I've been forced to consider the issue especially carefully because I was scheduled to give a talk to the Philosophy Department there in December, and UIUC was starting to invite speakers for a proposed mini-conference on experimental philosophy the next day, where I would give the keynote address.
[3 updates below] A quick informational note apropos of my previous post.*
In addition to the email-writing campaign and the various petitions that have been circulating re: the Salaita case, there is an initiative, begun by Corey Robin (see here), to organize groups of scholars by discipline who would commit to refusing to make any visits to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign campus until such time as Professor Salaita's appointment was reinstated.
So far, this effort has borne fruit among philosophers (organized by John Protevi, here) and political scientists (organized by Joe Lowndes, for info see here). Those with appropriate disciplinary affiliations who are inclined to participate in these initiatives should contact the organizers, as noted. Those in other disciplines who are willing to organize their own list should contact Professor Robin, as detailed here.
Update: A statement by professors of English is being managed by Elaine Freedgood (info here.)
Update 2: A statement by professors of Sociology is being organized as a petition and a statement by professors of Rhetoric and Composition is being managed by Matthew Abraham (info on both can be found in this post on Corey Robin's site).
Update 3: There is now a statement of refusal for faculty in women’s studies, gender studies, and feminist studies being managed by Barbara Winslow and a general statement that is not limited to scholars in any particular field (info on both can be found here.)
* Please note that this post is offered in an informational capacity, and should not be taken as an endorsement by NewAPPS or any of its individual authors of these campaigns.
By now, readers are likely aware of the case of Steven Salaita, who was hired away from Virginia Tech by the University of Illinois, as a tenured associate professor of American Indian Studies, only to see his position terminated weeks before he was supposed to begin teaching on account of his remarks on Twitter regarding current events in Gaza. If you need to catch up on the details, a good place to start would be this story in the Chronicle. Also, Corey Robin, who has been a leading advocate for Salaita, has written a number of posts tracking the conversation as it unfolds (see his blog here).
While this sentiment is not universal, many, many people—including the AAUP—are treating this case as a serious breach of key principles of academic freedom. How that is so has, perhaps, been best summarized in this piece by John K. Wilson over at Inside Higher Ed.
Without trying to reproduce a rich set of discussions, it seems important to take note here of several points that have been made in recent days,* and which connect to discussions we've had here previously: 1) that this firing** constitutes a case where statements on social media are being treated as exempt from the principles of academic freedom; 2) that this firing constitutes an example of the way that civility standards (or, shall we say, matters of 'tone') are worrying not only from the point of view of their differential impact on variously positioned members of the profession, but also from the point of view of academic freedom; and 3) that terminating Salaita's appointment at this stage in the hiring process effectively means that the basis on which many people accept new academic jobs (and leave their old ones) has become unreliable.
My friend Alan Nelson recently posted a link on facebook to the following article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/business/economic-view-when-the-scientist-is-also-a-philosopher.html with an appropriately snarky note that the author, N. Gregory Mankiw (the Chair of the econ department at Harvard, natch), seemed to be arguing that the only changes to the status quo permissible are those that are verifiably Perato efficient improvements. An obvious corollary is that, since every reasonably substantive and complex policy change will have winners and losers, we should never change policies at all.
Last week the Guardian had an interesting piece on academic blogging. The authors, academic bloggers themselves, conducted a small-scale study with 100 academic blogs as their sample set, in order to identify the main trends in what academic bloggers really write about. It is often said that blogging is an outreach/impact tool for academics, to reach out for the educated public at large, but this is not what came out of this study. The results were interesting: 41% of the posts were on what the authors call ‘academic cultural critique’, i.e. “comments and reflections on funding, higher education policy, office politics and academic life.” A similar number (40%) were dedicated to communication and commentary about research. The remainder 20% focused on other aspects of academic practice, such as teaching and career advice.
Now, clearly the wide majority of these posts were not written for ‘the public at large’ as their target audience. While some of the research communication (40%) could well be geared towards non-specialists, the authors of the piece seem to suggest that most of them were of a ‘researcher-to-researcher’ kind of communication. Is this worrisome? Does this mean that academic blogging is failing to deliver?
Quite a morning on Facebook. First, someone posted a link to this NDPR review, which prompted this reflection on my part:
The choice of doing a review or not on Objectivism entails a bit of a double-bind: "sunlight is the best disinfectant" (or less obnoxiously, "let's let the marketplace of ideas* do its work") vs "recognition lends legitimacy." The choice of reviewer is equally problematic: with a highly polarizing topic the choice of a friend or a foe stacks the deck and neutral observers are difficult to find. The Stanford EP article on Objectivism was discussed critically along those lines a while ago if I'm not mistaken.
Subsequent discussion led me to this Forbes column on (often privately funded) university centers for "free market oriented policy research."
My six year old Thomas is reading Star Wars books designed for six year olds. He's actually very good at it, but he does consistently misread the word "universe" as "university." Since it occurs quite a lot in these books, he's constantly telling me things like the following:
My name is Qui-Gon Jinn.
I am a Jedi.
The Jedi are a very special group of beings.
For many thousands of years, we have worked to promote peace and justice in the university.
Apparently, the Provost of Providence College, Hugh F. Lena. Lena canceled a scheduled speaking engagement by Corvino. The Chroniclereports:
[Lena] cited a statement issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2004 called “Catholics in Political Life,”
which says that “Catholic institutions should not honor those who act
in defiance of our fundamental moral principles.” He also said that
college policy “dictates that both sides of a controversial issue are to
be presented fairly and equally.”
Mr. Corvino, in a response on his Web site
to the cancellation, suggested that the 2004 document that Mr. Lena
cited was inappropriate in this situation. “I am an academic speaker,”
not a politician, he wrote. “Both the person introducing me and I would
state clearly that my views were not those of the Catholic Church;
moreover, a respondent from the Providence College theology department,
Dr. Dana Dillon, would follow immediately to explain the church’s
position on marriage. Far from suggesting ‘support’ for my views, the
college would have ample opportunity to express precisely the opposite.”
Shame on Providence College!
Corvino responded in conciliatory fashion: “Pope Francis, the Catholic Church’s new leader, has been justly
celebrated for his welcoming tone toward gays and lesbians,” he wrote.
“Notwithstanding my abrupt dis-invitation, I remain hopeful that
Providence College may soon better reflect that tone.”
Our very own Ed Kazarian writes in Inside Higher Edhere. (Congrats Ed!) He nicely summarizes our earlier discussion here at NewAPPS (here, here, here), and shows with patience how the NBER economists used very misleading rhetoric in their piece. Kazarian calls attention to why their bogus rhetoric (tenure vs non-tenure) matters. I quote his concluding remarks:
[T]here is nothing about teaching-intensive faculty that is incompatible
with their being eligible for tenure — especially if one fully intends
to build long-term relationships with them and keep them around.
Why, one is led to ask, can we not have "efficiency" and tenure? The
answer, if there is one, must have to do with other ways in which
non-tenured faculty differ from those with tenure. The authors mention
academic freedom — an important consideration.
But they otherwise ignore the degree to which non-tenured faculty lack a
secure position from which to question, criticize, or oppose the
actions of university administrators.
And here, indeed, is another sense of "efficiency" that administrators
at many institutions might well wish to cultivate, allowing them to
enjoy a pedagogically effective, but largely vulnerable, and therefore
easily controlled faculty.
We sought ways around the gridlock of current debates over the role
of religion in public life by examining the way an early 18th century
philosopher and theologian had responded to similar circumstances by
refashioning the concept of God to accommodate modern ways of thought.
The Australian Research Council’s panel of experts, acting on the advice
of independent specialist assessors, deemed it worth pursuing. On the
basis of its title alone, however, Briggs deems it “ridiculous”.
But if cattle and horses and lions had hands
or could paint with their hands and create works such as men do,
horses like horses and cattle like cattle
also would depict the gods' shapes and make their bodies
of such a sort as the form they themselves have.--Xenophanes
"Not all ethical issues are equally important. Many ethicists spend their professional lives performing in sideshows.
entertaining the sideshow, sideshow performers do not deserve the same
recognition or remuneration as those performing on our philosophical
What really matters
now is not the nuance of our approach to mitochondrial manipulation for
glycogen storage diseases, or yet another set of footnotes to footnotes
to footnotes in the debate about the naturalistic fallacy. It is: (a)
Whether or not we should be allowed to destroy our planet (and if not,
how to stop it happening); and (b) Whether or not
it is fine to allow 20,000 children in the developing world to die
daily of hunger and entirely avoidable disease (and if not, how to stop
it happening). My concern in this post is mainly with (a). A habitable planet is a
prerequisite for all the rest of our ethical cogitation. If we can’t
live here at all, it’s pointless trying to draft the small print of
philosophy departments should be restructured. The junior members
should cut their teeth on lesser subjects such as the mind-body problem.
As their experience, status and salary rises, they should increasingly
specialise in problems (a) and (b). By the time they have reached the
top of the tree, that’s all they should be doing. Anyone who wants to
spend their lives paddling around in the philosophical shallows, along
with Kant and Wittgenstein, should of course be free to do so, but
should realise that it will condemn them to a life of penury and
obscurity."--Charles Foster. [HT Ingrid Robeyns.]
Foster relies on the -- welcome to me (now that I am balding and greying) -- premise that philosophy has a very long apprenticeship. Let's grant this for the sake of argument and learn to ignore the purported boy-wonders in our midst (there might be other good benefits that flow from not focusing on them). Sadly, Foster does not suggests that ethical reflection requires considerable schooling in life--a point I have long been more partial to. Foster unabashedly endorses [A] a practical conception of philosophy; in fact, in the post he relies on [A] as a tacit premise because while at first he only speaks of "ethical issues," "ethicists," and "ethical cogitation," his conclusions involve the organization of philosophy an sich. This is why Foster's really important ethicist reminds me of Xenophanes' cattle and horses and lions. Foster's post (and the subsequent discussion) is primarily useful for posting what is often said sotte vocce,
especially in contexts where philosophers need to prove their
usefulness. Blessed are those who work in an environment -- primarily
rich private institutions -- where their philosophical lack of utility
"Failure to cite an earlier work with the same subject matter, even
an important one, is not by itself research misconduct.".. it can certainly be argued that it would have been
an improvement for Deacon to find and cite Juarrero's Dynamics in Action,
or for Juarrero and Rubino to find and cite Brian McLaughlin, or for
Lissack to find and cite Deacon. But that is a discussion about
academic style and comprehensiveness, not plagiarism or academic
The Investigation Committee has exonerated Terrence Deacon by finding
that each of the allegations of plagiarism made against him are either
without foundation in logic or evidence, or are demonstrably false. As a
result, it is the responsibility of the University to make a concerted
effort to repair the damage done to a wrongly accused member of our
faculty. In the Internet age, when unsupported and demonstrably false
charges can be leveled against an individual and distributed directly to
hundreds of people via email and many thousands more through
websites, as has been the case with respect to Deacon, repairing
reputational damage is an extraordinarily difficult challenge. For that
reason, the University has taken the unusual step of writing this
narrative and creating a website where the investigation report is
posted and its findings are available to any interested individual.
Following up on Jon's beautiful and thoughtful post, I here offer some reflections on the role of free and undirected play in academic and non-academic creativity. Jon remarked that being focused on a narrow and highly specialized research field may contribute to a sense of unhappiness and lack of satisfaction for academics. We have increasing knowledge of how creativity works, for instance, cognitively: it is a stochastic process that does not thrive only on focused research efforts (although that has its place too), but also on the serendipitous coming together of ideas from different sources. It also thrives by having an overproduction of ideas, from which we can pick and select (this is why some regard creativity as a Darwinian procsess). Some degree of variation (deviation from one's specialized activity) helps the creative process, especially if the other activities are indirectly related to one's main tasks.
I am currently reading a book on the Inklings, an informal reading group of Oxford dons between the 1930s and the late 1940s. What struck me was that CS Lewis, Tolkien and other members of this group engaged in activities that we now would find completely unproductive, even for a graduate student, postdoc or someone on sabbatical. For instance, some members of the Inklings came together in a reading group where they would translate stories from old Icelandic into English. There were those who could already read Icelandic fairly well (like Tolkien, who had taught himself) - these members of the reading group translated several pages at the time. Others were absolute beginners, like CS Lewis. When he started the reading group, he couldn't read a word of Icelandic and had to use a dictionary for every word. He translated maybe 2 or 3 paragraphs at a time, with help and coaching from his peers who were better versed. The Inklings also wrote their own verse, based on Icelandic narratives, and their own stories, which would ultimately form the basis of the Lord of the Rings.
This form of free play would be unthinkable in the current UK climate of the REF and other assessment tools, which encourage academics to put their energy into getting their work in high-quality publishers. Would Tolkien be able to write the Lord of the Rings if he were an academic today? I don't think so.
When Kempner died in 1993 at age 93, legal
disputes about his papers raged for nearly a decade between his
children, his former secretary, a local debris removal contractor and
the Holocaust museum. The children agreed to give their father's papers
to the Holocaust museum, but when officials arrived to retrieve them
from his home in 1999, they discovered that many thousands of pages were
the Holocaust museum has gone on to recover
more than 150,000 documents, including a trove held by Kempner's former
secretary, who by then had moved into the New York state home of an
academic named Herbert Richardson.
The Rosenberg diary, however, remained missing.
this year, the Holocaust museum and an agent from Homeland Security
Investigation tried to locate the missing diary pages. They tracked the
diary to Richardson, who was living near Buffalo.
Richardson declined to comment. A government official said more details will be announced at the news conference.