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).
[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.
The review, in BioScience, is available here. I highly recommend it for its cool, judicious treatment, as well as for the glimpse into Evan's own approach, near the end of the review:
Nagel neglects another important body of work closely connected to theoretical and experimental models of the origins of life. This work concerns complex or self-organizing systems and comprises theoretical biology, dynamical systems theory, and philosophy. A number of theorists have argued that certain types of self-organizing systems exhibit a kind of natural teleology in the sense of a directedness arising from being self-producing and self-maintaining (Juarrero 1999, Thompson E 2007, Deacon 2012). This kind of directedness does not involve teleological laws beyond or outside of the laws of physics, unlike the natural teleology that Nagel proposes but does not develop fully. Moreover, such self-producing and self-maintaining systems arguably exhibit protomental characteristics and thereby provide a bridge from the physical order to the orders of life and the mind. Nagel's book falls short in not taking this work into account.
Finally, Nagel never stops to consider that his concepts of consciousness and the physical body may be part of the problem. For Nagel, consciousness is private, first-person experience, and the physical body is a complex mechanism. A different approach argues that consciousness, most fundamentally, is the feeling of being alive—a feeling that is necessarily bodily and that is also necessary for certain kinds of life-regulation processes of the body (Thompson E 2007). According to this view, there is no way to pry apart consciousness, life, and the physical body in the way that Nagel presupposes.
Treatments of these two books, from other angles, appeared at New APPS by Eric and Mohan.
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.
The story is here. I think there are two things to note here:
1: the threat to jobs of our colleagues: "The head of the University of Maine System said Friday that further state budget cuts could force the system to shed 95 jobs, on top of its plan to eliminate 165 in the next budget year."
2: the use of the seemingly neutral and technocratic term "revenue shortfall" here: "Page said the potential funding cut of nearly $10 million – part of an across-the-board spending reduction to cover a state revenue shortfall – could force the system to eliminate another 95 jobs in the year that starts July 1."
The problem with the use of that term is that it hides deliberate decisions by Maine politicians to cut state taxes, thereby creating the "shortfall" that is then the pretext to gut the university. I'd say this is a perfect example of ideology, as the hidden ratchet effect of taking previous decisions as unquestionable baselines.
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."
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".)
However, one additional factor needs to be put into the equation: undergraduate student-workers, who do lots and lots of service and clerical work: checking books out of the library, answering phones in department offices, and on and on. Marc Bousquet estimates in How the University Works that UG student-workers are the largest labor component, by number, at some big public schools.
Should they be part of the bargaining unit, or should the bargaining unit negotiate their work conditions and limits to the number of them employed relative to full-time clerical workers, is a good question, but one or the other is needed I think.
This is how you obfuscate, ladies and gentlemen: "There's a good reason for that, says Rex Ramsier, vice provost at the University of Akron, where Gallagher is teaching one class. "Institutions have to be very mindful that if we simply tried to staff every course with full-time faculty that have full benefits, the cost of higher education at any institution would go up 30 to 40 percent potentially," he says. "The public's not going to accept that."
Notice the conflation of instructional labor costs and total costs (including admin salaries, fixed costs (building construction and upkeep, etc), which go to the bottom line of the school, and "cost" to "the public."
There's another equivocation there, between the public qua set of individual consumers (in which case we're talking about "price" to them -- tuition and fees) and public qua set of individual taxpayers.
Why is this important? A public uni could recoup its increased labor costs by two means.
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.
This Salon piece looks at some recent movies through the lens of masculinity anxiety:
A friend of a friend of mine has big plans: quit his prestigious editorial job in New York, grow his beard a bit further out, and start working on the docks. In 2014, the sentiments behind such a decision aren’t anything new... Gender roles in the workplace and the family are blurring...
I don't have any complaints about the analysis of the movies, just about the vast understatment of the phrase "aren't anything new." Because, let's face it, if there's anything men have been worried about the entire history of "Western Civilization" (TM; and yes, like Gandhi, I would be in favor of it), it's the decline in masculinity as soon as guys take up desk jobs.
I would date it to Nausicaa getting turned on by the pirate, er, gangster, er warrior Odysseus when he appears on the beach, because frankly those nancy boy courtiers hanging around her dad's court just lack a certain something, know what I mean? But then again, really isn't it Enkidu teaching Gilgamesh what a real man is all about? And so on and so forth, through Plato and Tacitus and hell just about everybody, really, including turn of the century Americans. Turn of the 20th century, that is. Cf, too, for the latest in hard bodies. It's as if it were a theme or something!
[UPDATE, Sat 18 Jan 2014: 4:00 pm CST: Moving to front to highlight this very important post by Tommy Curry and John Drabinski, with thoughtful comments by Jason Stanley.]
Many people have already read this important piece in NYT's The Stone. I have seen a few online reactions as well, including this one and this one by Eric Schliesser. Here's one by Peter Levine. What I'd like to do here is offer the comments to further reactions and / or to links of other online discussion.
Schliesser thought he could escape the Borg, but a senior philosopher elsewhere has tracked him down for us here. In this very interesting reflection, he writes about the head-lice inspection all Dutch kids undergo at school, and connnects it to Foucaultian analyses of biopolitics (or, with less fancy terms, that government rationality that licences, among other things, involvement in public health). But, as Schliesser recognizes, it's hard to be simply "against" public health -- what, you *want* your kids and other kids to have lice?
Also, any objections, like his about evidence of the effectiveness of school level inspection, share much the same rationality -- what's the most effective means of obtaining a health-managed population? Now we could do some sort of neoliberal twist here: some sort of market in private insurance against the costs of head lice treatment with a tax penalty for non-compliance might fit -- a AHLIA (Affordable Head Lice Inspection Act), if you will -- but would this neoliberalization not still fit within a biopolitical horizon?* Or, if you prefer more direct means, do we continue at the level of schools or centralize ("up") to the level of the city or state, or further de-centralize ("down") to the level of the household with say, random house visits?**
As a card-carrying Deleuzean, I'm supposed to be scornful of the concept of "ideology."* But it does have its uses, and here's a great example of ideology qua naturalizing the social.
Fatal traffic accidents occurred in New York, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Authorities said a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease froze to death after she wandered away from her rural western New York home. And in suburban Philadelphia, as the storm approached, a worker at a salt storage facility was killed when a 100-foot-tall pile of road salt fell and crushed him. Falls Township police said the man was trapped while operating a backhoe.
I'd rewrite that this way:
A cruelly insufficient social safety net (the Alzheimer's patient) and dangerous work conditions caused by cuts to public workforce (the backhoe operator -- I wouldn't be surprised if he was working for a private contractor; at the very best he was probably pulling a double shift, hence exhausted) plus the grossly insufficient public transport system and poorly maintained roads, coupled with economic desperation (the car drivers -- dollars to donuts they were trying to get to a crappy service job, but don't worry, the Walmart where they worked will put out a collection basket) continued its reign of terror today, with the winter storm being the proximate cause that only a fool, knave, gull, or ideologue would blame for the social conditions that exposed these people to its effects.
As the anthropologist James C. Scott has compellingly argued, it is a fool's game to attempt to learn about human nature from 'isolated' or 'primitive' tribes, since every human group about which we have any knowledge has existed in some relation to a broader network of other human groups, and usually of states and empires. In this respect the idea of homogeneous national cultures attaching stably to territories is not only an illusion, to the extent that the homogeneity was initially imposed by a concerted campaign, but also to the extent that influence and goods are always flowing in from outside, even if in certain places and times foreign faces and foreign tongues are an unfamiliar occurrence. James C. Scott, "Crops, Towns, Government," London Review of Books, Vol. 35, No. 22, 21 November, 2013, pgs. 13-15.
While I agree grosso modo with Scott's point about skepticism about direct and naive conclusions from existing foragers back to pre-State times, I think we can make some reasonable, modest, and always open to re-interpretation, guesses (or if you want, hypotheses) for pre-State forager bands. When we do that we have to remember that claims that inter-group war was the dominant form of inter-group relation are themselves prone to illegitimate analogies with nation-state behavior (that is, society as boot camp: impose a homogeneous culture to better ensure success in war through loyalty to the group, etc).
As an outsider I've been fascinated by watching continental philosophers shake off many of the neo-Kantian aspects of phenomenology in the same way that analytic philosophers earlier shook off many of the (sometimes identical!) neo-Kantian aspects of logical positivism.
What's fascinated me most these past few years is the way in which lessons, themes, and issues from the glory period of German Idealism have been so much better recovered in the continental metaphysics renaissance. That is, one can easily trace the canonical set of issues that move Maimon all the way through Schopenhauer and Hegel* (that were thought to have been dissolved by logical positivists and phenomenologists) as all rising up again in various ways by once renegade Deleuzians such as Protevi and Delanda** and the Speculative Realist writers of the same recent era: Meillassoux, Harman, Hamilton-Grant, and Brassier.***
The reason I think that 2014 is the Clash City Rockers gets released (or perhaps David Lewis visits Australia) moment for the revival of metaphysics in continental philosophy is that so much of this material a deepening of this very narrative of a dialectical recovery of what was covered over by twentieth century neo-Kantian philosophy. After the jump I'll list a few that are the most exciting to me.
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.
This Slate article* about the recent Johns Hopkins plan** is symptomatic of a seriously -- and unfortunately widespread -- mistaken approach to the political economy of higher education, namely, a short-term and ahistorical focus on the TT section of the entire labor system, mislabeled as "the job market."
Abstracting for the moment from the details of the Hopkins plan, the article's premise that "there aren't enough [tenure-track] jobs for PhDs" is an unfortunate reification of the multiple decisions of university administrators to produce the current situation by their hiring decisions. The endorsed conclusion "therefore we should restrict the number of PhD students," by unquestionly accepting the premise, just reinforces the dynamic that produces the current situation.***
Why? Well, because this post is about the Kansas Regents' decision to pass a new social media policy, which states that:
the chief executive officer of a state university has the authority to suspend, dismiss or terminate any faculty or staff member who makes improper use of social media.
Improper use means making a communication that:
— Directly incites violence or other immediate breach of the peace;
— Is made pursuant to the employee’s official duties and is contrary to the best interests of the university;
— Discloses confidential student information, protected health care information, personnel records, personal financial information, or confidential research data; or
— Impairs discipline by superiors or harmony among co-workers, has a detrimental impact on close working relationships, impedes the performance of the speaker’s official duties, interferes with the regular operation of the university, or otherwise adversely affects the university’s ability to efficiently provide services.
Reading this, I'd feel compelled to say that it 1) seemed like an effort to stifle criticism of the University, 2) veered periliously close to making it impossible for colleagues to disagree publicly, especially over matters of instiutional practice, policy, or pedagogy, and 3) similarly put anyone considering discussing his or her experience with, say, discrimination or harassment on notice that doing so could be harmful to his or her carreer. Even better, this transparent attempt to initmidate and constrain faculty speech in public fora was imposed by fiat without prior consultation with the faculty, though--in a clear effort to satisfy some of Protevi's likely objections--faculty were told that "the board would welcome input over the next several months."
Presumably, this input shouldn't be on social media, however, especially if it were critical or the process by which this policy were imposed, or its content.
Update: Scott Jaschik now has a story up at Inside Higher Ed that adds a few new details, including comments from the chair of the AAUP's Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure.
Update 2: KU Law and Economics Professor Bill Black has written an analysis of the policy here, and been interviewed by the Kansas City Pitch here [h/t William Pannapacker]. Black pretty much confirms (and even extends) the worst case scenario interpretations of this policy that have been floating around.
I like the result of the NYU graduate student unionization election (I would like to say, "obviously," but as too many profs use the "in principle I like unions, but ..." line when it comes to grad student organizing I guess I can't). But I don't think the subhead of this column ("An important victory over the corporatization of the university"*) is right. Unionizing isn't a victory over the corporatization of the university, it's a recognition that admins using corporatized universties for rent-extraction** is the reality of the university***; hence, unionization is a means of fighting fire with fire.
* I know that authors don't compose subheads or "deks" (thanks to Sean Carroll below in comments for correcting me on previously using "lede"); I'm objecting to the frame this one gives the column.
** This NYT story about sweetheart financing for summer homes for NYU "stars" deserves wide circulation.
*** The connection of the university and the corporation is not so simple ...
Both of these writing modes are essential skills for graduate students to master, but it's hard to get them to even try the "teacher-development" mode, perhaps because it's more difficult. (It's especially important for continental philosophy students to master this, since they will very often be addressing non-CP experts when addressing professional colleagues.)
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."
Sometimes combat might be the right stance, but seeing that as the default mode for philosophical discussion leads far too often to destructive Q&A sessions that aim at destroying the opponent and bolstering the amour propre of the aggressor. Where the aim is victory, then all kinds of rhetorical moves can prove effective: there’s no reason to think that truth will emerge as a by-product.
For my part, regarding blood-on-the-floor seminar rooms, I wonder to what extent the practice of awarding individual grades creates the impression among students of a zero-sum game in grades (whether or not a true zero-sum game is in operation*), exacerbating the combativeness aspect: “if I tear down Jones, that’s one less person in the top grade cohort I have to worry about.”
Perhaps more of a reach -- but that's supposed to exceed one's grasp, isn't it? -- is the connection of individualized grades with the neoliberal self-entrepreneur, which Jon discusses below, in relation to Mike Konczal's review of Mirowski.
The good news: NYU and the UAW have agreed to allow graduate teaching assistants to hold a union election.
The "sigh" moments come in the first and last clauses here:
Outside the South, graduate student unions are common in public higher education (where collective bargaining rights are determined at the state level), but have been the source of years of organizing and legal struggles in private higher education.
The first is the most obvious, the disconnect between contemporary science and pop-culture treatments: "In recent months, a new book co-authored by best-selling author John Gray hit the shelves that, like his many other books, claims there are ‘hardwired’ differences in thebrains of females and males..."
This sort of thing could occur in many domains of science. What is more interesting, and provocative, is the second disconnect they identify, within science itself, which amounts to a refusal to take plasticity seriously:
Humans have evolved an adaptively plastic brain that is responsive to environmental conditions and experiences, and the modulation of endocrine function by those experiential factors contributes to that plasticity. Why, then, do popular understandings of female/male behavior as rooted in a biological core remain entrenched in scientific ideas characteristic of the previous century? Is it, in part, because the sex/gender science within these three fields is similarly entrenched?
If Elisabeth Lloyd’s take on the female orgasm is
correct—i.e. if it is homologous to the male orgasm—then FEMALE ORGASMis not a proper evolutionary category. Homology is sameness. Hence, male and female orgasms belong to the same category. The orgasm is an adaptation, whether male or female (and
Lloyd should agree). It is not a spandrel or by-product.
I’ll get back to this in a moment, but first some background. There are five NewAPPSers who have a particular interest in the
philosophy of biology. Roberta Millstein, Helen De Cruz, Catarina Dutilh Novaes, John Protevi, and myself. Aside from Roberta, each of us comes at it from a related area in which biological insight is
important. For me, that area is perception. I have written quite a bit about
biology, but my mind has always been at least half on the eye (and the ear, and
the nose, and the tongue, . . .).
There is a divide among us with respect to a leading controversy
in the field. Catarina is strongly anti-adaptationist and I am strongly
adaptationist (perhaps because of my motivating interest in perception, which is exquistely adaptive). Roberta, Helen, and John are somewhere in between, but likely closer to Catarina than to me. You can gauge where I stand when I tell you that in my view, Gould and Lewontin’s 1979
anti-adaptationist manifesto, “The Spandrels of San Marco and the Panglossian
Paradigm” is one of the worst, and certainly one of the most mendacious, papers I have
ever read in any field. Among the five of us, I am sure I am alone in this.
Given all of this, my take on adaptationism with regard to the orgasm may get a
hotly negative response from my co-bloggers. Nevertheless, I’ll get on with it.
In the end, the university’s rationale for the campaign relies heavily on a narrative of state defunding. For example, as a Detroit News article relates, “President Mary Sue Coleman called the campaign ‘audacious’ and said no gift is too small since universities need philanthropy with states no longer able to support them to the degree they must for schools to be globally competitive.” This narrative seems difficult to square with the actual role of the endowment in funding university operations. The endowment contributes only 4.5% (of its total holdings) to the general operation funds of university each year. The principal stays invested. Thus, if we look at the breakdown of revenue sources at the university in 2010 the endowment contributed only $253 million. Student tuition however generated over $1 billion, while state funding totaled $315 million.
The endowment clearly has very little to do with making up for lost state funding. Its purpose lies elsewhere. And that elsewhere is in the university’s move to behave more and more like a hedge fund, mobilizing donated capital to secure new revenue streams. It does this by taking advantage of its tax-exempt status to build up a hoard of money that it then invests around the world in shady funds and places it would rather the university community did not know about. In so doing, the university is slowly becoming an important player on Wall Street but to play with the “big boys” it needs more and more capital, which requires constant fundraising campaigns. This money is destined for investment not students. Little of it will ever reach students in the form of scholarships or be used to offset increases in tuition.
The SUM seems to be the sort of thing many universities should have:
Inspired by the Quebec student movement of 2012, the Student Union of Michigan (SUM) is an organizing platform based at the University of Michigan dedicated to fighting the privatization of higher education and instead building a truly democratic, open university run by students and workers. We stand in solidarity with student and worker struggles around the world.
Philosophers should read this online issue of MLA Profession, since so far MLA > APA on professional issues. (Don't believe me? Check the date on this APA page.) Which doesn't mean it should stay like that; but it does mean we have a good model. Think of the leading folks writing on US HE issues: Bérubé, Massé, Newfield, Bady, Bousquet: they're all English folks. Let's fix that by developing a robust set of philosophers working on HE in general and philosophy work conditions in particular. IMO, these issues require us to drop the near-exclusivity of focus on the TT sector of the employment system, and to see it as one sector only. The last slides of this presentation tries to do that; the earlier slides are a stab at a brief historical survey. A conversation starter rather than a definitive statement.
An email landed in my inbox this morning about widespread non-payment of adjuncts in the CUNY system. I'll reprint it below the fold. IANAL, but those who are might want to comment on this in light of NY's "Wage Theft" law.
Here, though, read how Anthony Galluzo, one of those affected, describes his situation:
I'm supposed to be paid--finally--tomorrow, although classes started the last week of August. The explanation? Well, I was hired late--the week before said classes began--and there is a state mandated pay schedule. Fantastic. A system apparently designed with long term employees in mind, hence the glacial in-processing, even though it now runs on casualized permatemps hired at the last minute. This scenario was compounded by the fact that the secretary in the English department only submitted materials for one of my courses. I am teaching three. A fluke that happens all too often, as I've since learned from other adjuncts. Of the several adjuncts I talk to, I don't know one who was paid on time.
If you've been affected by non-payment, late payment, or partial payment, contact Debbie Bell email@example.com. To offer support of any kind, contact Jonathan Buschbaum. Below the fold, more details: