What do cuts to legal aid mean? March 22, 2014
The UK government has cut the annual legal aid budget by £320m, and plans to continue cutting it by £220m each year until 2018.
As anyone with two brain cells to rub together will realise, the cuts have affected the most vulnerable members of our society, who can not afford to pay for professional legal representation, and end up having to represent themselves in court, opposite trained barristers.
But what does this mean in concrete terms for the individuals who are affected?
Here’s one story.
Noela Claye is a rape survivor from Sierra Leone. The legal aid cuts made her experience of going to court much more traumatic. She had been denied expert legal representation and psychiatric evidence which would have recorded and corroborated her experiences, so she was forced to go through the details of the rape in front of the judge. She faced vigorous and at times cruel cross-examination and broke down frequently… Ms Claye won her case, but because the Home Office have appealed, she is going to have to go through it all again at another hearing and still without legal aid.
Ms Claye is being supported by Women Against Rape – a grassroots organization that provides support, legal advice and advocacy for all women and girls, and the All African Women’s Group.
There is still time to write to Theresa May to ask that she withdraw the Home Office’s appeal against Noela Claye. (The link leads to more information about Ms Claye’s case, including details about the rape.)
You can read more about cuts to legal aid and their effects here.
George Takei on Arizona’s pro-bigotry law February 25, 2014
Congratulations. You are now the first state actually to pass a bill permitting businesses–even those open to the public–to refuse to provide service to LGBT people based on an individual’s “sincerely held religious belief.” This “turn away the gay” bill enshrines discrimination into the law. Your taxi drivers can refuse to carry us. Your hotels can refuse to house us. And your restaurants can refuse to serve us.
Kansas tried to pass a similar law, but had the good sense to not let it come up for a vote. The quashing came only after the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and other traditional conservative groups came out strongly against the bill.
For more, go here.
Talk about a triggering event! February 3, 2014
It’s taken two days for the discussion of the Boulder situation to really sink it. I think that a number of recent blog posts and articles are stressing the more general fact that philosophy as a field can be nasty and brutish for women, if not short. People of color, members of the GLBT community have also suffered, and similarly for the disabled and the elderly. And no doubt others I’m failing to think about. For those of us who have worried about the situation for years or even decades, the fact that a bright national light is fixed on it is at least a relief.
But then many of us have actually suffered in ways that have heavily impacted our careers. And at some point, the present discussion may well bring it back. I know it has for me this morning. So what to do?
There’s short-term advice: things that can help include exercise (maybe walking if you can), talking to friends, distracting yourself with something you like – download a movie, play music, get a good novel, etc. Writing about it can also help, and here we have an excellent resource, the What is it Like to be a Woman in Philosophy blog. Even if you have already described your experience, I think there’s room there for something more general, along the lines of “how my life has been impacted.” In fact, I think I’ll go over there soon.
We’re keeping comments closed. Otherwise we’ll be a conduit for misinformation. But that shouldn’t stop you from using our “contact us,” and letting us know what more we should be saying.
“Only 2 of the 15 complaints were found to be substantiated” February 2, 2014
See correction/qualification below
The CSW report on Boulder recommends that the relevant office (ODH) explains what a finding or not finding on a complaint means. I have seen many remarks that suggest that 13 of the 15 complaints described by the CSW report were judged to be baseless. Such a conclusion does not follow at all. I said something about this in comments on the new apps site, but it seems that the issue should be addressed in a more general post. I cannot possibly speak about procedures at Boulder, but I saw a number of cases when I was in faculty governance and when I filed my own complaints. I am also going to suppose that the complaints were based on Title 7. Of course, there may not all have been, but I think the problems I’m describing are the same.
We should also remember that filing a complaint is not fun, and it looks like a good way to make enemies in the profession. Further, it is not thought to be an easy way to get one’s own back. Getting a finding against someone above one on the academic ladder can be very hard.
A disclaimer: I may be wrong at points, but my intention is principally to indicate that a “no finding” result need not be a finding that a complaint is baseless or frivolous. Things are very much more complicated.
First of all, the process often – perhaps always – goes through the hands of lawyers. We – faculty and students – are usually not legally trained. This is important because one’s complaint has to meet some demands that are legal in nature. For example, women form a protected class; that’s why women, and not fit young heterosexual white men, file complaints with the equal treatment office. But this means that one has to show that the egregious behavior is targeting one as a woman. It is not enough that one’s reputation is being trashed, for example; they have to be after you because you are a woman for the claim to be accepted. Being a jerk is not illegal. So really egregious behavior can be judged as irrelevant. No finding is made.
Secondly, at least in many cases, one has to show one has been harmed. That means that, e.g., an unjust decision on tenure has to result in one’s not getting tenure. Similarly for other unjust decisions about salary, leave, etc. A dean or provost can reverse the unjust decision and no harm is done, it is said. If the option is finding for the complainant or no finding, this may well go into the no finding category.
One is well advised to get a lawyer, but even lawyers acting on a contingency basis will want something up front. In Houston $25K is not unusual. That means a lot of people will have to complain without legal counsel. I think those one complains against may get legal counsel. It is not a level playing field.
But supposing a complaint is taken up, a lawyer has been hired, and it is clear the aggrieved won’t go away. They university may well not want the relevant pictures or emails or whatever to enter into a legal process outside of the university. And going to the federal EEOC is not really appealing to anyone, at least anyone I’ve known. So the university may try to settle with the complainant, and succeed in doing so. Here again, the bad actor is not found against, and I’d expect that instead a finding of “no finding” is official.
Let me say again that my intention here is just to illustrate some of the complications. Deciding a charge against title 7 is not at all like grading a paper. Just as a “not guilty” verdict does not mean the defendant was innocent, so a “no finding” conclusion does not mean there wasn’t very serious wrong-doing being reported.
On a note from a reader:
I may have been wrong or at least misleading. I said that in the case of an unjust decision, such as a tenure decision, the finding of “no finding” might happen if the decision is overturned. I didn’t mean to say that the legality of the unjust decision might change. In any case, I do want to clarify the situation. An informed reader has commented:
If a department votes to deny tenure, tenure is not ipso factodenied, and if a dean overturns the department, the issue may be moot but the US government doesn’t think so. The legal question is whether an act of discrimination took place on a particular date. Subsequent acts may be considered, but only pursuant to the question.
There’s some worry on others’ part that my comment might discourage others from seeking legal redress. Even more important, I think, is that filing adds to a paper trail that you may well need if things get worse. I would in fact go to your office of affirmative action right away and file a complaint. My university in fact stresses going through all the proper channels, which means that in our situation you don’t want to go to the gov’t right away. This is something you should ask about.
My information about what happens in the case of an unjust decision – the example I used was tenure – was actually based on my own experience going up for promotion to full professor. The college committee denied my request; every sentence in the explanation they provided was false. For example, it said my publication record had gotten worse, but in fact it had gotten better. It was completely remarkable; since this didn’t happen to the men denied that year, and since I’m a member of a protected class, I had a very good case for saying I was receiving unequal treatment. But the university legal department said that I had to wait to see if actual harm resulted. And indeed the provost overturned it.
Anita January 30, 2014
The trailer for a new documentary about Anita Hill’s testimony during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearing has been released. (It’s worth remembering that additional witnesses who could have confirmed her testimony, and who made themselves available to testify, were not called to do so.)
“Am I dead?” January 22, 2014
I hope the quote marks manage to suggest the “I” does not necessarily refer to me!
A recent movie reminded me of a literary trope about death. The actor is often first shown in some very dangerous or threatening situation. In the next scene, the character is back in a familiar setting. Still, no one seems to notice, even people very close to them. Then they try to speak to someone, but no one hears and so no one replies. Someone in the scene might get the sense that there’s something unusual in the environment, perhaps an odd wind or lowering of temperature, but the character’s presence is not understood.
How many times, I wondered, have I experienced this scene in philosophy? It used, I think, to happen a great deal, when one didn’t get called on however often one’s hand went up in a question period until finally at the end one could say something and it was completely misunderstood and dismissed. I might count the two experiences I’ve had recently of having my comments responded to at a conference by someone who didn’t recognize that I actually argued for the counter-claims I had made. I could put in here a conviction I recently discovered was shared in a group a people; namely, nothing I did benefited my department or my college. The latter might have at least asked for my opinion, if I existed.
Interestingly, the too often reported experience of having one’s comment in a question period attributed to someone else certainly fits the literary trope. Here is a scene in which the character says something and it is heard, but everyone thinks it came from someone else who is visible to them.
I have also had much more perfect instances of the trope, one recent one taking the prize, though without the danger, unless one counts publishing as a woman in philosophy dangerous.
Enough about me! What about you?
Violence against women in Papua New Guinea January 16, 2014
Apologies for the commercials; the video is worth the VERY SHORT wait, I think.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and the bad isms of prejudice. December 12, 2013
The bad isms are racism, sexism, ageism, etc, etc. There is a lot of recent work on how to combat biases of these kinds, particularly implicit ones, of which their possessors are not aware, or are only slightly aware. Leverhulme, for example, generously funded 4 workshops at Sheffield on the topic.
Cognitive Behavioral Theory could also be seen as addressing biases in one’s thinking. It is also, apparently, empirically tested and quite successful. Plus, it also often comes with great little handbooks.
Particularly attracted to the idea of developing a handbook, I’ve been wondering whether anyone has ever tried to do a CBT version for racism, etc. (I’m assuming a technique not identical to plagiarism could make the handbook development easier than it might be if one were starting from scratch.)
Do you know of anyone who has tried to develop CBT for racism, sexism?
The state of Texas, and no doubt many other states and countries, have something like mandated workbooks for these things, which are on the web in the form of exams. These are worthless, really. What will you get if you give the same test to 800 faculty? Lots and lots of copying.