A while ago, we discussed how the Dean of FAS at Harvard together with the Dean of Harvard College had searched the subject lines of emails sent by resident deans in an attempt to discover which of them had leaked information about student involvement in a cheating case, and, if so, what information had been leaked. The search occurred without first informing the resident deans.
The upshot of our rather constructive discussion was that the high-ups at Harvard had over-reacted.
Yesterday, it was announced that the Dean of Harvard College, Evelynn Hammonds, is "stepping down."
Christ, it's depressing how smart one can be in one area while believing the most transparently idiotic things in others (especially when moral culpability is involved).
Read THIS COLUMN ("MOOC Professors Claim No Responsibility for How Courses Are Used") for yet more evidence concerning the correctness of John Calvin on innate depravity.
Even from a self-interested perspective it's risible. Just how short-termed can one's thinking be? If this continues much longer not enough of their own students are going to be able to get enough good jobs to keep the scam going.
One of the two most persistent misunderstandings of university life is that because we are not teaching over the summer, we "get the summer off."Almost every academic I know actually works harder over the summer than the rest of the time, but none of their extended families or non-academic friends seem to understand this.
In an effort to fight this, for the past few years on my own (now defunct) blog, I've hosted a beginning of summer post where people share what they hope to get done in the ensuing summer. Please contribute to this public awareness campaign by sharing (plus, I'm not the only one interested in what you are working on). My summer plans below the fold:
Nice discussion HERE including a cool shout out to friend-of-the-blog L.A. Paul. Most horrifying part:
What percentage of graduate students end up with tenure? (About one in four.) How much more unhappy are graduate students than other people? (About fifty-four per cent of graduate studentsreport feeling so depressed they have “a hard time functioning,” as opposed to ten per cent of the general population.)
As die-hard PEA Soupers already know, for a while now we have enjoyed a partnership with Ethics
in which, relatively soon after each issue of that journal is
published, we have a discussion of a paper from that issue kicked off by
a commissioned précis of that paper, often a commitment from the author
to respond to questions, and several commentators lined up to help
launch the discussion. Each paper that gets commented on at PEA Soup is
made publically available to all without a subscription.
We are pleased to announce that we have now started up a somewhat similar partnership with Philosophy and Public Affairs, Philosophers’ Imprint, Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and JESP.
We are expecting a few more such partnerships to be firmed up shortly.
The result will be that there should soon be significantly more critical
discussions of first-rate work in ethics, political philosophy, and
related matters on PEA Soup. There will be much less “down time” between
First, it's great that PEA Soup is looking at ways at staying 'live' more frequently. I always enjoy the discussions. So, congratulations are in order! Second, I bet that later generations will wonder, 'what took philosophers so long to develop such partnerships?' Such partnerships are a clever and obvious move in order to develop a forum for (relatively) high quality and highly visible philosophical discussions.
Even so, I have concerns: I worry about mechanisms in which a relatively narrow group of gate-keepers (however qualified, open-minded, and well-intentioned) will decide for us what is worth our collective attention (a very scarce resource). Given that PEA SOUP Partners (PSPs) are a fantastic group of journals with very high quality 'content,' crowding out of others is quite possible. This is not an idle thought because the post speaks of (a) a 'few more such partnerships' and (b) the web facilitates winner-take-all mechanisms, after all. (Something we have benefited from at NewAPPS!) Anyway, kudos to PEA Soup for being so pro-active. But I do hope some enterprising web-blogs partner with the philosophical alternatives to PSP.
Given the justified lack of popularity of the neo-cons (and Leo Strauss' purported influence on them), I suspect many of our readers will say 'yes.' Moreover, many of the best historians of philosophy have a deservedly visceral, negative response to Straussians who substitute numerological obsessions and evidence-free arguments about hidden meanings (in which everything is reduced to will to power) for serious scholarship. Let's call what's being rejected "vulgar Straussianism."
Even so, esoteric readings of our philosophical past crop up in surprising places. For example, consider two recent books emanating at the time from Vancouver. First, in her important book, Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity (Oxford), Catherine Wilson writes (purportedly quoting Malebranche): "that the crux of a philosopher’s doctrine is to be found in those passages where he defends an unpopular thesis; his defense of accepted theses has no informational value." (p. 148) Let's call this "Wilson's Dictum." In context Wilson is commenting on Walter Charleton's use of the dialogue format; a genre that lends itself to multiple readings and, thus, esotericism.
Note that Wilson's is not evidence-free reading; you only get to attribute an unpopular thesis to an author if s/he asserts it once and would have motive not to call repeated attention to it. Primed by Wilson's focus on Epicureanism, I noticed that Adam Smith states very clearly in his own voice: “Fortune, which governs the world” (The Theory of Moral Sentiments 2.3.1,
[p. 104 in the Glasgow edition]) in a chapter which according to its (perhaps now ironic) title describes the "final cause" of our psychological constitution. Of course, a sentence fragment does not settle the matter against a Providentialist interpretation of Smith, but if one takes Wilson's dictum seriously, merely piling on the Providentialist and Deist passages fails to undermine the credibility of the (shall we say) more neo-Epicurean reading of Smith, which was, by the way, Reid's (see this nice paper by David Fate Norton J.C. Stewart-Robertson, although Reid's argument is different).
Well look, I couldn’t disagree more violently with BDS as they call it, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions. As you know I’m a big supporter of Israel, as big a one as you can find in the city, but I could also not agree more strongly with an academic department’s right to sponsor a forum on any topic that they choose. I mean, if you want to go to a university where the government decides what kind of subjects are fit for discussion, I suggest you apply to a school in North Korea.
The last thing that we need is for members of our City Council or State Legislature to be micromanaging the kinds of programs that our public universities run, and base funding decisions on the political views of professors. I can’t think of anything that would be more destructive to a university and its students.
You know, the freedom to discuss ideas, including ideas that people find repugnant, lies really at the heart of the university system, and take that away and higher education in this country would certainly die.
This is a city that loves and protects freedom—academic freedom, religious religious freedom, sexual freedom, cultural freedom, political freedom. We are the freest city in the world, and that’s why we’re the greatest city in the world.
Disturbing stories are ongoing in Turkey and in Flanders: university administrators are eager to accede to demands of the government (Turkey) or powerful politicians (Flanders) to silence and intimidate student and faculty protests against government policies/proposals. The more serious one is developing in Turkey, where a student protest turned violent. The linked report claims that ODTU/METU (confusingly, there are two acronyms for same university) students threw Molotov cocktails. However, my Turkish sources claim there is no evidence of that, and have linked to this (Turkish) video, which suggests unprovoked police attacks, although I cannot guarantee, of course, there was no editing. (Maybe some of the police were trained in California?) I should say that the Rector of ODTÜ/METU, one of the most prestigious universities in Turkey, is showing backbone and is meeting with the government today. There is petition to show support here.
What makes these stories interesting is that (a) the political establishments of both Turkey and Flanders are eager to invest in higher education as a means toward prosperous futures; (b) in both places important democratically elected politicians lack warmth toward an open, critical society (and a university professoriat that they see aligned with a discarded establishment); (c) in both places important parts of the higher education establishment much prefer being at the technocratic core of industry-government investment rather than presiding the kind of creative fertility and tension that is the breeding ground for creative industries (and what passes for independent thought) .
Erik Loomis blogs at Lawyers, Guns, and Money. He wrote in the wake of the Newtown Massacre, "I was heartbroken in the first 20 mass murders. Now I want Wayne LaPierre’s head on a stick." For this, he has been targeted by the bottom-feeders and outrage artists of the right-wing.
We must stand by Loomis’s side and speak up and out on his behalf, for he has become the target of a witch hunt, and as an untenured professor at the University of Rhode Island, he is vulnerable. Loomis needs our solidarity and support, and we must give it to him.
Below the fold, my letter to the President of the University of Rhode Island, who issued the following craven and misleading statement:
The University of Rhode Island does not condone acts or threats of violence. These remarks do not reflect the views of the institution and Erik Loomis does not speak on behalf of the University. The University is committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and equitable culture that aspires to promote positive change.
I urge you to write to President David Dooley at firstname.lastname@example.org, and to sign onto the Crooked Timber statement.
The research in question is a new type of maternal deprivation research designed
to study anxiety by creating adverse early rearing conditions and then exposing
the maternally deprived young monkeys to a snake and other frightening stimuli. The monkeys will be killed after the
experiment is over and their brains will be studied. I believe this experiment
is unethical and I also think it violates the spirit, if not the promulgated
regulations, of the Animal Welfare Act which explicitly requires that the
psychological well-being of primates be promoted (not intentionally destroyed).--Lori Gruen
As an outsider, it's pretty depressing how "new Labor's" cult of rule by "management experts" (as if one could be an expert without actually having any particular expertise) just added another layer of awfulness to the Thatcher educational depredations. Some of my British friends had minor hopes that the new conservative government would actually do their job and stand up for what was valuable in Western culture, but as far as higher edumacation, all they seem to be good at is following Napoleon Bonaparte's demand that the bureaucracy must expand to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.
Anyhow, Critchley brilliantly describes how this played out while he was in the U.K. and also how it relates to his experience in New York. He also describes what he's done with the New York Times and some of his more recent philosophical work. It's a great interview. Joe Bob says check it out.
Commenter Neil calls our attention to this Chronicle piece from 26 July on the Regnerus affair (previously treated here and here at New APPS).
The peer-review process failed to identify significant, disqualifying problems with a controversial and widely publicized study that seemed to raise doubts about the parenting abilities of gay couples, according to an internal audit scheduled to appear in the November issue of the journal, Social Science Research, that published the study.
The highly critical audit, a draft of which was provided to The Chronicle by the journal’s editor, also cites conflicts of interest among the reviewers, and states that “scholars who should have known better failed to recuse themselves from the review process.”
Philosophers, Carlos Fraenkel and Adam Etinson, weigh in helpfully on "What started as a protest against an ostensibly modest raise of university tuition fees 100 days ago" and which has "become the midwife of a vigorous public debate about the political, social, and cultural physiognomy of Québec."
Some background. The annual value of targeted tax rebates and cuts in the gret state of Louisiana are now over 7 and a half billion dollars, around a third of the actual state budget, an amount that dwarfs higher education spending. These rebates are often political giveaways that make absolutely no sense, such as Walmart getting one and a half cent per dollar rebate on sales tax remittances.
Also note that the State of Louisiana has the 21st highest GDP of any state in the United States. Given the size of the population, were it a country it would be in the tiny minority of the wealthiest countries in the world. But it suffers the curse of mineral wealth, which is why one of the richest states in the country has the greatest income disparity, greatest poverty, highest per capita prison population, least funded education system, etc. etc. etc.
This information shows just how astute Lombardi's "fable" is (story HERE; please take the time to read it; it's very entertaining).
The last four years under Jindal began with a huge tax cut that rendered the code more regressive, and then continued with an even greater orgy of perpetual targeted tax giveaways. The money lost through these policies have been largely recouped through perpetual cuts to higher education. Some of it has been made up for in tuition and fee increases (four years ago the state funding/tuition plus fees ration was 6 to 4, but now that's reversed), but schools across the state have fired tenure track faculty, sometimes after declaring exigency, sometimes not. There have been no merit raises for the whole time and for the foreseeable future. And hiring freezes are the norm.
And now, if the current round of proposed cuts actually go through, flagship campus LSU would have to do the equivalent of closing two of its colleges.
It's just a fact that there is a business cycle, and if you cut taxes every time it's high and cut services every time it's low, then at some point things are going to get very ugly. I think that we are on the edge of this in Louisiana, and in fact would be over the cliff were it not for Federal welfare programs such as Social Security and Medicare putting money in middle class hands.
Faced with the recent darkness descending upon Québec, I thought it my duty to try to sum up as simply as possible the reasons that make me think that we must resist Bill 78.
1. Individual rights are a fundamental institutional defence protecting citizens from abuses of State power.
2. Even democratically elected representatives can abuse their powers.
3. In a democracy, the rights of association, expression, and protest are utterly fundamental.
4. It must be recognized that all citizens have these rights, especially those who, in a mode that respects democratic and liberal norms, hold points of view that are dissident and unpopular.
5. The fundamental character of these rights requires that they not be circumscribed or limited, except with great parsimony.
6. The present situation in Québec does not call for the sort of draconian limitations that have been imposed by the Liberal government in the form of its odious and shameful Bill 78. By its refusal to democratically engage with the student movement, the government has contributed to the degradation of the social climate. The disturbances that have made themselves felt in this climate, caused in part by the government, can be handled by existing legal institutions, including the criminal code.
7. Whether you agree with them or not on the question of the tuition fee hike, the students’ questions are legitimate and deserve a respectful response.
In light of recent discussion on "work for hire" contracts (here and here), a generous reader calls our attention to how The University of Michigan "supports the goal of having its faculty maintain core intellectual property rights when their scholarly works are published." See the University of Michigan Author's Addendum. You may view an explanation of how the Addendum works here.
Nice Slate story HERE on how excessive copyright enforcement killed a whole genre of art.
The rich sonic landscape of Paul's Boutique is produced by layering and repeating of over 300 unique samples. But in 1991 the outcome of Grand Upright Music v. Warner Bros. Records was that it became prohibitively expensive to do this, killing the artform. The Slate article concludes:
Even as hip-hop is more mainstream than ever, one of the key musical innovations has been pushed to the margins. That should serve as a reminder that the battles over intellectual property don’t merely pit the economic interests of creators against would-be freeloading consumers. The existing stock of recorded music is, potentially, a powerful tool in the hands of musicians looking to create new works. But it’s been largely cut off from them—for no good reason. Congress could enact a mandatory licensing scheme in which you pay a modest fixed fee to sample an existing recording for commercial purposes. Or it could create a legislative safe harbor, stipulating that samples under some set length automatically qualify as a fair use. But it won’t, because in the music and movie industries, the only kind of copyright laws Congress is willing to pass are ones that give more power to copyright holders, not less.
My theory, which belongs to me, and is mine, is that Schaefer Riley is *trying* to get fired, so she can drive up her lecture fee on the “woe is me, the liberals have deprived me of my First Amendment rights” circuit as well as ditch the Chronicle for the greener pastures of Fox News.
Having been non-tenure track for two years after getting my Ph.D, I actually began to perspire about half way through reading THIS ARTICLE. The author presents ten ways to get yourself fired if you are contingent faculty. Of course some of them contradict each other, but these contradictions just accurately represent the messed up situation.
In addition, ther whole exercise vaguely reeks of Kremlinology. Just as the CIA really had no idea what the various cliques surrounding Andropov were up to, there's something essentially mysterious about people with arbitrary power over you.
The full story is actually even more depressing, the obscenely wealthy using purported education reform to gin up the power of the huge vacuum cleaner that sucks up money from the poor and middle class.
We've known how this story ends since the 1980s, but as far as I can tell no one seems to be able to turn the damned thing off.
Kevin Smith, an attorney and academic librarian who is Duke's Scholarly Communications Officer, offers three reasons why OUP's insertion of "work for hire" language, which vests authorship with OUP rather than with the real author (previously discussed here and here at New APPS, following up on the initiative of Steven Shaviro) is likely to backfire.
First, nothing is more surely designed to make faculty authors angry than to tell them they are not the authors of the scholarship they offer to publishers. As a group, faculty authors have been pretty docile toward publishers for a long time, but foolish and tone-deaf moves by publishers have begun to stir faculty anger toward presses they once considered friends and colleagues. If a claim like this, which denies the fundamental dignity of authorship to scholars, becomes widespread, that slow rebellion will speed up very quickly.
We previously discussed Steven Shaviro's Jan 11 post in which he expressed his dismay at discovering that OUP had inserted "work for hire" language in his author's contract. Gordon Hull's comments here and at Shaviro's blog were particularly acute, explaining how "work for hire" differs from standard contracts: usually, an author retains various rights of ownership, re-use (e.g., in a later single-authored work), and distribution (e.g. private web archive), and allocates a limited set of rights pertaining to copyright to the press. However, with "work for hire" the author has no rights, as the press claims copyright from the start.
Here Shaviro reports on the developments. More below the fold, but in brief, he will not sign the contract, will not submit his work, will not write for OUP in the future, and will not buy OUP books until the "work for hire" language is dropped from OUP contracts, on the grounds that such contracts spell the end of our status as scholars freely contributing to ongoing discussion in the public interest and its replacement with the status of "knowledge worker" producing privately owned "content."
Recently there has been a great deal of discussion on this blog (and elsewhere) about Clark Glymour’s attack on philosophy where it does not either (a) engage with problems that scientists (would care about but) have not perceived, or (b) bring in at least a dribble of grant money. The idea, I suppose, is that philosophy has no autonomous value. I strongly disagree with Glymour’s implication, though I certainly agree that in certain circles there is a tendency to circulate dirty laundry (a practice that Glymour quaintly calls “incestuous”).
Now one of the reasons I find philosophy valuable is that it makes genuine progress. Of course, detractors say the exact opposite, but look at the record.
UCD is one of several contested fronts in a much wider campaign against the marketization of higher education. As participants in this campaign, we pledge to suspend all professional association with UCD until Chancellor Katehi quits her post.