TO: David Gray, Senior Vice President
for Finance and Busines
Susan Basso, Vice President for
Penn State University, University Park, Pennsylvania
Dear Mr. Gray and Ms. Basso:
According to an article in the 10
September Centre Daily Times and the
15 September New York Times, a health
risk assessment questionnaire that is part of Penn State’s new employee
wellness program asks women employees whether they plan to get pregnant in the
next year. If the employee refuses to disclose this she is penalized $100 for
every month she fails to yield up the information.
By requiring women employees to disclose information about their sex
lives, Penn State violates their privacy rights and likely violates their
rights under federal law (Title VII and The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Title
IX, privacy law, and equal protection). Highmark, Penn State’s health care
provider, targets women employees by imposing on them a special burden of
disclosure about their sexual intent. Are male employees required to disclose
their intended sexual activity over the year? To avoid paying a fine, is a
woman employee forced to lie? And if she has no plans but becomes pregnant
accidentally, does that increase her insurance premiums?
Diederik Stapel, also known as the ‘Lying Dutchman’, was the
protagonist of one of the nastiest cases of professional misconduct in
experimental psychology, amidst a recent surge of such cases. The committee in
charge of investigating the extent of his fraudulent conduct has recently
announced its conclusions. As could have been expected, it looks very bad, also
affecting a number of his collaborators who, due to negligence, unwittingly allowed him to engage in such
practices (article here in Dutch).
Stapel now says he
feels ‘sadness and shame’, but in a surprising turn of events, he has also been writing a diary since the whole
commotion started, parts of which he is planning to publish in book form! (Article in Dutch) Is it
“a way to try to make money
off of his terrible decisions”, as suggested by Bryce Huebner (to whom I owe
the pointer to the article on Twitter)? Or is it a case of someone who is so
used to being in the spotlight that any form of public attention is welcome?
I don’t know what to make of it, but I suppose one shouldn't be too surprised by his penchant for poor judgment.
In 2007, a study by Hamlin, Wynn and
Bloom was published in Nature claiming to show that preverbal babies had what
could be described as a ‘moral compass’ (not the authors’ own terms in the
article). From the abstract:
Here we show that 6- and 10-month-old infants take
into account an individual's actions towards others in evaluating that
individual as appealing or aversive: infants prefer an individual who helps
another to one who hinders another, prefer a helping individual to a neutral
individual, and prefer a neutral individual to a hindering individual. These
findings constitute evidence that preverbal infants assess individuals on the
basis of their behaviour towards others. This capacity may serve as the
foundation for moral thought and action, and its early developmental emergence
supports the view that social evaluation is a biological adaptation.
EAT YOUR SIDEWALK -- A SIMPLE CHALLENGE: What is the relay between ideas and our everyday lives? The ideas I am think of in this case are those of "4EA" cognitive science (embodied, extended, emergent, enactive, affective), which are central to many of the conversations on this blog. My real question is, if 4EA is offering us an new set of experimental tools how do we make these experiments part of our daily practice? And where could this lead us?
We are embodied, extended, emergent, enactive and affective beings. But just knowing this is simply the beginning of figuring out what it means in terms of it making a real experimental difference to our lives, our habits, our politics, what our houses look like (and so on). Now there are many ways to go about this but I would like to suggest one possible way that I have been part of developing as part of the collective called SPURSE. It’s called Eat Your Sidewalk!, a one week community-wide challenge to do just that. Our hope is that beginning with eating/foraging we can get to questions of the emergent commons, multi-species entanglements, foodways, less consumptive practices and much more...
Now to get this to happen we have set up a kickstarter, and as rewards we are offering a series of great conceptual and material tools -- things like a “code book” to commons making procedures (imagine if Ostrom and Deleuze were in cahoots), or a “cookbook” (the one that follows neatly after the Futurist + Modernist + Anarchist...) -- all the way to experimental dinners and beyond.
Please take a look and support us (or disparage us) as you wish!