I theorized and defended my use of snark here, but I hereby renounce its use. Although I do not think it "apt" to describe New APPS as instantiating a "self-righteous lynch-mob mentality"* (if indeed that phrase was meant to encompass us among its targets), I will nonetheless refrain from further use of snark or sarcasm or related modes. I will instead simply point out the rhetorical moves I think some folks are making; if I think someone is proposing ad hoc and inflated standards of proof, I'll just say so. Etc.
I second this. I also await Brian Leiter's promised reply, which I hope, in addition to an apology to McKinnon, will explain that he did not mean to imply that criticism of his use of "vigilante justice" to describe the non-violent protest of Northwestern students constitutes "a lynch mob."
Today, March 8, is International Women's Day. To celebrate this day, the APA’s Committee on the Status of Women offers a challenge: you can help to raise $10,000 to support the work of the committee. More information here:
The graduate students of the Department of Philosophy at Northwestern University, have by a majority vote, adopted the following statement:
We find the alleged behavior of gross professional misconduct recently leveled against a faculty member in our department to be deplorable. Further, we judge that the university has failed our community in the way that they have handled these allegations of gross professional misconduct. In addition, we stand in solidarity with the victim of the aforementioned misconduct, with victims of sexual harassment and violence globally, as well as with their advocates (whom we do not consider to be vigilantes). As students, and educators, we take seriously the wellness of every member of our community. The members of our philosophy department have been genuinely dedicated to promoting inclusiveness at Northwestern, as well as within the broader philosophical community. It is among our highest priorities that we create and sustain a safe environment for all members of our community. In the spirit of these affirmations, we are deeply saddened that a member of our department has been found to be in violation of these moral and professional obligations.
We feel, however, that it bears saying that the behavior outlined in the recent lawsuit leveled against Northwestern is not representative of our sense of the prevailing culture in our department. The overwhelming majority of our community — both professors and graduate students, male and female — are engaged jointly in a project of inclusiveness and mutual support.
Since 2011 our department has maintained a committee to promote and sustain inclusiveness among the graduate student community. Among their duties, the Climate Committee hosts the Annual Inclusiveness Lecture on implicit bias and other issues affecting underrepresented and marginalized groups in the discipline. That same year we also founded an initiative geared towards fostering female undergraduate majors: WiPhi is a female-only group of members of the philosophical community at Northwestern at all levels (undergraduate, graduate, and professors) who regularly meet. WiPhi also hosts the Annual Gertrude Bussey Lecture, in honor of the first woman to receive a PhD in philosophy from Northwestern.
Additionally, our course listings represent our shared commitment to exploring issues of diversity and underrepresentation in the field, and in the broader community at large: Our department makes it a priority to regularly teach courses with substantial feminist philosophy content, as well as substantial focus on issues of race. We, the graduate students, feel that our community is home to several upstanding, vocally feminist, junior and senior faculty members. Our community is committed to fighting the sexism that has long been rampant in the broader philosophical community. And while we jointly feel compelled to express our deep sadness in response to the alleged behavior of a faculty member in our department, we also feel compelled to express our commitment to our community.
As teachers, mentors and colleagues, we, professional philosophers, take our tasks of teaching, research, and service to the profession very seriously. We want to create a supportive environment where fellow faculty members and students feel safe and where their concerns are heard and addressed.
In light of recent events at more than one university, we the undersigned hereby petition the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association to produce, by one means or another, a code of conduct and a statement of professional ethics for the academic discipline of philosophy. We particularly urge past presidents of each division of the APA to sign this petition.
Discussion on FB of this post at Leiter Reports about rejection led me to remark:
I hesitate to say this, since I made it through the wars by dint of being married to the right person, but here goes. My wife likes to say "you can't take rejection personally; there are too many factors involved that have nothing to do with your qualifications. [Wait two beats.] In fact, you can't even take acceptance personally, for exactly the same reason."
Further reflections below the fold, taken from a talk on inclusivity in conference organizing (points which hold, mutatis mutandis, for hiring decisions) at the APA Eastern, 2013. (See also this post, on why we should change our frame away from "job market".)
A Northwestern University student who sued the University earlier this month, accusing them of failing to adequately follow up on her allegations of sexual harassment against a professor, is now suing that professor in state court....
And last night, the University’s Student Government organization added its voice, endorsing a series of reforms including the immediate suspension of any staff or faculty member found to be in violation of the school’s sexual harassment policy.
Read more on the Northwestern campus community reaction here.
The student’s attorney, Kevin O’Connor, told The Daily on Friday afternoon the University had provided him additional information regarding the committee, which the original lawsuit says was established to determine disciplinary actions against Ludlow. O’Connor said he recently learned the committee was created to evaluate sanctions the University had already proposed. O’Connor said he plans to amend the lawsuit to indicate the committee’s formal decision did not recommend Ludlow be fired. The change is a technical one, O’Connor said, and he believes the substance of the complaint will remain intact. “At the end of the day, it’s not going to affect the integrity of the lawsuit,” he said.
Recently I read the following story on What’s it like to be a woman in philosophy.
The poster says her partner thought the mother/daughter relationship is not a topic of meaningful or worthy philosophical investigation. She writes “It feels like I have to defend why the female experience is worthy of philosophical analysis. It feels like I am not taken seriously the moment I talk about what I want to talk about. It feels like I need to transform my thoughts into useless philosophical jargon. It feels like my relationship has tension now, because his words hurt my self-perception. It makes me second-guess my recent applications to graduate programs. It feels like I am not a philosopher–like my thoughts, feminine, worthless–will be forever excluded from the realm of the “lofty, the existential, the philosophical”.”
I am sure that this perspective is not unique, that somehow topics about mother-daughter relationships, motherhood, and other female topics are not deemed worthy of philosophical investigation. Yet what recent philosophical essay has received so much mainstream attention than Laurie Paul’s paper on deciding to have a child? And there are many other examples. One of my personal favorate examples is Rebecca Kukla's paper on ethics and advocacy in breastfeeding campaigns. Given the solid scientific evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding, and the tremendous pressure women experience to breastfeed (even while still pregnant), this is surely an important topic, philosophically speaking and otherwise.
(Many thanks to Bryce Huebner for drawing my attention to this work) - There has been a lot of speculation about whether or not sexual harassment is worse in philosophy than in other disciplines. While there are few hard data on this issue, a new paper by Dana Kabat-Farr and Lilia Cortina throws new light on this problem, looking at the correlations between gender disparity and harassment in a large sample of employees in the military, academia and the court system. Across all these fields, the authors found that a low gender representation for women results in higher levels of gender harassment. Gender harassment is defined as "a broad range of verbal and nonverbal behaviors not aimed at sexual cooperation but that convey insulting, hostile, and degrading attitudes” about people of one’s gender". Concretely, "when comparing a woman who works in a gender-balanced work-group to a woman who works with almost all men, we find that the latter woman is 1.68 times as likely to encounter [gender harassment]." Remarkably, they found no correlation between sexual advance harassment (which we have been hearing a lot about recently) and underrepresentation.
I think these data are highly relevant for the recent news about harassment in our profession, and that there are things to learn from it for concrete policies.
[Changed headline and URL from this morning.] See here, here and here for news articles. 3:20 pm, CST, 11 Feb. We are opening comments. We will moderate closely. See our comments policy. From the news stories, we know the following facts:
1. The student is suing Northwestern, not suing Ludlow.
2. The lawsuit alleges that the original complaint was upheld by the NU Office of Sexual Harassment Prevention. Their wording is alleged to have been that Ludlow “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances.” [Per the news articles, it is a fact that the lawsuit contains this allegation. It is not a publicly available fact that this was the wording of the OSHP.]
3. The lawsuit alleges that a disciplinary committee recommended firing Ludlow. [Similarly, it is a fact, per the news articles, that the lawsuit makes this allegation. It is not a public fact that the disciplinary committee made this recommendation.]
4. The university did not fire Ludlow. [Update, 3:50 pm: it's better to say that Ludlow is teaching courses this term at Northwestern.] [Update, 9 am, 12 Feb: see here for more information on Ludlow's teaching schedule.]
5. Through his lawyer, Ludlow denies the allegations in the original complaint.
6. The university changed its policies in January, claiming that these changes would put it in a position to be in better compliance with Title IX.
[Update 9am, 12 Feb: 7. The Chicago Tribue reports: "This was not brought to our attention by either the candidate or his employer," said Rutgers spokesman Greg Trevor. "We are looking into this matter thoroughly, including requesting all relevant information to fully evaluate his candidacy."]
I would like to call attention to a problem that may not be salient to university administrators or senior philosophers: Junior philosophers tend to be rather poor and in debt. They may have been paying for tuition and living expenses for five years or more (sometimes they have also been paying for kids in addition to that). Why should that concern you? Because (to mention just one issue) every so often you invite a junior philosopher to give a talk at a department colloquium or a conference. That's really great. Keep doing that. However, you may want to reconsider the whole reimbursement business. When I am asked to give an invited talk, and you promise to reimburse me, that's super-nice of you. If the reimbursement doesn't arrive right away (or occasionally never arrives), my kid won't starve. But I am not a junior person.
Earlier today, the campus announced that Professor Andy Cowell will head our philosophy department at CU-Boulder. Professor Cowell is a professor of French literature and a former chair of two departments, French and Italian and linguistics. This change was made to improve the climate in philosophy for our faculty, staff and students and, specifically, to improve the climate for women.
We have made these changes based upon the recommendations of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in a recent report that we are making public today, as well as on evidence gathered from faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students in the department. That evidence points directly to the need to create a stronger, more inclusive environment in the department for women as scholars and students, that prevents acts of sexual harassment and discrimination, and that allows faculty to work together in a collegial environment of mutual respect.
Can you imagine being happy in a non-academic career? This question is often posed by academics to prospective graduate students, who are encouraged to pursue an academic career only if their answer is ‘no’. This advice came under Nate Kreuter’s scrutiny in a recent Inside Higher Ed column:
Let me start this column by looking at what I think is a horrible but common piece of advice. […] I have often heard of faculty members advising prospective and current graduate students to pursue or continue their graduate studies only if "you can’t imagine yourself doing anything else." The implication, of course, is that you should only pursue an advanced or terminal degree if being a professor is the only way you can see yourself being happy […] [T]his is shockingly bad advice.
While Kreuter worries that this advice fails to acknowledge the possibility of combining academic degrees with non-academic careers, my own concerns are more fundamental and focused specifically on the discipline of philosophy. I’m worried that, by dishing out this advice, we are unintentionally discriminating against precisely those groups of people we are trying hardest to attract and retain.
A new site was launched: Women of Philosophy, an online database collecting information about women currently working in philosophy and their research. It has lots of nice features, such as divisions per area (although some seem not to be operational yet), main and secondary areas of expertise per person, as well as personal and PhilPapers websites listed – and all this with an extremely user-friendly layout. It is a brand-new project, so there may well be quite a few women philosophers missing in the database (so go submit your entries!). However, in the long run, it is likely that all the numerous lists of women working in different areas of philosophy scattered around the internet will become superfluous thanks to this database (which is great news! There is much to be said about a unified database such as this one).
Other laudable efforts to promote diversity in philosophy – not only along the gender dimension – are underway: the PhilPapers crew seems to be working on a database to contain all professional philosophers (they do not shy away from big projects!), listed under a number of diversity categories. So more and more, there will be little excuse not to engage in promoting diversity in philosophy, now that there is an increasing number of useful resources available to all.
There are two complimentary Gendered Conference Campaigns petitions,* Jennifer Saul's here and Eric Schliesser's here.
Saul's petition and and supporting material (e.g. how to avoid a gendered conference here) focus on helping organizers of conferences and edited anthologies avoid having an all male lineup.
Schliesser's applies more leverage, also focusing on those who might present at (or submit to) a conference (or anthology) with an all male lineup.
What we are calling for is a strong defeasible commitment not to participate in exclusionary conference line-ups.) The aim of this call is not the refusal, but the deployment of leverage, where it resides, so that inclusiveness becomes an integral part of conference-planning. Further, we ask senior male philosophers to carefully consider refusing invitations to conferences and edited volumes in which the line-up is disproportionately male.
We call on all philosophers - male and female, junior and senior - not to organize male-only or male-almost-only conferences,workshops, or edited volumes. (Information on female experts in various areas is available here, here, here, here, here, here, and here).
Now here is my question. In what manner should the above be thought to apply to summer schools?**
The Philosophy Department at the University of California, San Diego, is calling for applications for the 2014 Summer Program for Women in Philosophy, which will be held at UCSD from July 28 to August 8, 2014. The two-week program will feature two intensive courses and a variety of workshops, all geared towards providing an engaging philosophical learning experience and preparation for applying to graduate school in philosophy. Participants will be provided with housing and meals, will have transportation costs covered, will have all course and workshop materials provided, and will receive a $600 stipend.
In a recent blog entry, Laurie Santos and Tamar Gendler very nicely lay out the idea that explicit propositional knowledge is only a small part of the sort of understanding that guides action. As they say “Recent work in cognitive science has demonstrated that knowing is a shockingly tiny portion of the battle for most real world decisions. You may know that $19.99 is pretty much the same price as $20.00, but the first still feels like a significantly better deal. …You may know that a job applicant of African descent is as likely to be qualified as one of European descent, but the negative aspects of the former's resume will still stand out. “ (The post is short and really well written, go read the whole thing.) They then note, “You might think that this is old news. After all, thinkers for the last 2500 years have been pointing out that much of human action isn't under rational control.”
I would add: not only is this a point that one finds in Aristotle, but for the last 350 years it has been central to: Pascal, Marx Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Althusser, Foucault, pretty much every feminist epistemologist and philosopher of science (longino, Harding, Kukla, and on and on), and forcefully developed within mainstream analytic philosophy by Dreyfus, Haugeland, and others. )I sometimes think that the only important philosopher not to accept the point is Jason Stanley. – j/k!)
Next week, I will be teaching my first tutorials at Oxford University (the subject is philosophy of cognitive science). For those unfamiliar with the format, tutorials are one of the forms of teaching at Oxford that every undergraduate has. A lecturer and a student (or a small group of students, maximum 4) convene every week, and the student is guided and gets intensive feedback on the fruits of their independent study. A common procedure is that the student writes a brief paper each week, which they present at the start of the tutorial. The tutor suggests further reading, urges the student to think and to read on the basis of what they have said. There is no lecturing as such going on - it is rather a form of guided self-study.
Tutorials are sometimes misunderstood as a form of hand-holding or spoon-feeding the student, but in fact the format encourages independence and responsibility. The student has to make sure to do all the reading, digest it, and be able to do the final exam on the basis of it. As it's one-on-one (up to four) it is hard to hide and resort to shortcuts instead of actually doing the reading and the thinking. Tutors get support and training in how to guide students on the right track if they slack or lose motivation; timely interventions make sure the attrition rate and failure rate is very low.
Oxford's vice chancellor says the system will ultimately become too expensive, as tutorials cost more per student than the yearly tuition fees, which are capped at 9000 GBP . Educating an Oxford student costs about 16,000 GBP per student, which leaves a gap of 7000 GBP which is filled by various money-sources such as the endowments of colleges. His suggestion is to increase tuition fees - we know the outcome of unbridled student tuition fee increases - and it is a grim prospect. So one may wonder whether the tutorial is an institution worth preserving, given the costs.
The article is the Introduction to a Special Issue on "Improving Feminist Philosophy and Theory by Taking Account of Disability" of which Tremain is the editor; the articles therein should be read carefully as well.
(X-posted on Prosblogion) My last blogpost for this year will be a preliminary report on the qualitative survey I launched last month. In this open survey, I asked professional philosophers of religion (including graduate students) about their motivations and personal belief attitudes, and how their work relates to these beliefs. I am very grateful to all who participated (an amazing 151 respondents!), and to the British Academy for funding this research.
I've been invited to take part in a panel on inclusivity in conference and essay collection organizing, to be held at the 2013 APA Eastern. Session GVIII-1, Sunday 11:15 am. Here are my notes. (Comments welcome to me by email too.)
I propose organizers take three steps: 1) reflect; 2) clarify audiences and goals; 3) make invitations.
STEP I. REFLECT. The first thing we need to do is reflect on our normal practices. Unfortunately, it seems many organizers just say to themselves, "let's get the best folks we can on topic X." I think this is so from a common response to a question about a poor inclusivity roster: "well, we tried to invite world-famous Professor X but he / she was busy."
To me this implies that the organizers used some sort of one-dimensional "merit" measure and then rank-ordered the people who come to mind on that axis, starting at the top [of whatever section of the list they thought they could conceivably afford / interest] and working their way down.
Here, I think, is where the implicit bias claim explains just how and why these names "come to mind," thereby perpetuating a positive feedback loop locking in historically over-represented groups across generations.
But this rank-ordering by "merit" also has a questionable metaphysics: it looks to me like "merit" is seen as a property inherent in individuals that can be discerned, extracted, and then compared to others on a single scale.
Republishing this post from 14 December 2011, as it's that time of year again.
There has been a fair bit of discussion lately about the practice of APA interviews. A growing body of empirical work suggests that implicit biases play a large role in interviews, especially shorter interviews in unusual social situations. Some take this as sufficient grounds to endorse eliminating this part of the search process, while others are unconvinced.