Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

What’s wrong with ‘stand your ground’ laws? February 28, 2014

Filed under: law,politics,race,violence — philodaria @ 9:27 pm

For one, “White-on-black homicides are 354 percent more likely to be ruled justified than white-on-white.”

ThinkProgress has some other disturbing facts, here.

 

“Only 2 of the 15 complaints were found to be substantiated” February 2, 2014

Filed under: academia,human rights,politics,sexual harassment,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 7:13 pm

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

Filed under: gender inequality,human rights,politics,sexual harassment,the arts — philodaria @ 8:25 pm

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.)

 

Instructive video on implicit bias January 24, 2014

Filed under: academia,bias,politics — annejjacobson @ 10:31 pm

There are some good examples.  Most may be familiar to lots of our readers, but some were new to me.  One thing that emerges is the effects knowledge of sexual orientation can have on student evaluations.  bad news for mothers also.

 

 

“Where are the women?”

Filed under: bias,gender,politics — annejjacobson @ 4:01 pm

Indeed.

 

 

Obama launches White House initiative focused on college sexual assault January 23, 2014

Filed under: academia,education,law,politics,sexual assault,sexual harassment,violence — philodaria @ 2:36 am

Obama gave his task force 90 days to recommend best practices for colleges to prevent or respond to assaults, and to check that they are complying with existing legal obligations. The task force — which includes the attorney general and the secretaries of the Education, Health and Human Services and Interior Departments — was also asked for proposals to raise awareness of colleges’ records regarding assaults and officials’ responses, and to see that federal agencies get involved when officials do not confront problems on their campuses.

Read more about it here.

 

“Am I dead?” January 22, 2014

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,human rights,politics,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 12:28 am

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?

 

At least our seminars take breaks January 16, 2014

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,politics,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 8:34 pm

Below is a contribution from a recent Edge project.  And we thought philosophy was too often bad for women!

The question was, “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?”

My contribution:

The Way We Produce And Advance Science

Last year, I spearheaded a survey and interview research project on the experiences of scientists at field sites. Over sixty percent of the respondents had been sexually harassed, and twenty percent had been sexually assaulted. Sexual predation was only the beginning of what I and my colleagues uncovered: study respondents reported psychological and physical abuses, like being forced to work late into the day without being told when they could head back to camp, not being allowed to urinate, verbal threats and bullying, and being denied food. The majority of perpetrators are fellow scientists senior to the target of abuse, the target themselves usually a female graduate student. Since we started analyzing these data, I haven’t been able to read a single empirical science paper without wondering on whose backs, via whose exploitation, that research was conducted.

There is a lot more to this piece, which you can find by following the link above, which will take you to a very interesting blog.  The author is Prof. Kate Clancy, who was also features in another recent post on FemPhil., Welcome But Not Really.

 

Is the US a racial democracy? January 13, 2014

Filed under: bias,discrimination,human rights,law,police,politics,social justice — philodaria @ 3:25 am

Jason Stanley and Vesla Weaver have a piece up on The Stone–very well worth a full read– arguing that the United States is a racial democracy, i.e., a democracy “that unfairly applies the laws governing the removal of liberty primarily to citizens of one race, thereby singling out its members as especially unworthy of liberty, the coin of human dignity.” Here, I except:

As one of us has helped document in a forthcoming book, punishment and surveillance by itself causes people to withdraw from political participation — acts of engagement like voting or political activism. In fact, the effect on political participation of having been in jail or prison dwarfs other known factors affecting political participation, such as the impact of having a college-educated parent, being in the military or being in poverty . . .

Evidence suggests that minorities experience contact with the police at rates that far outstrip their share of crime. One study found that the probability that a black male 18 or 19 years of age will be stopped by police in New York City at least once during 2006 is 92 percent. The probability for a Latino male of the same age group is 50 percent. For a young white man, it is 20 percent. In 90 percent of the stops of young minorities in 2011, there wasn’t evidence ofwrongdoing, and no arrest or citation occurred. In over half of the stops of minorities, the reason given for the stop was that the person made “furtive movements.” In 60 percent of the stops, an additional reason listed for the stop was that the person was in a “high crime area.”

Blacks are not necessarily having these encounters at greater rates than their white counterparts because they are more criminal. National surveys show that, with the exception of crack cocaine, blacks consistently report using drugs at lower levels than whites. Some studies also suggest that blacks are engaged in drug trafficking at lower levels. Yet once we account for their share of the population, blacks are 10 times as likely to spend time in prison for offenses related to drugs.

The full article is here. 

 

So you think you are not biased against any group. So what? January 6, 2014

Filed under: academia,bias,gender,politics,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 10:26 pm

In the “Men behaving splendidly” session at the APA, there was some discussion of what percentage of women should we push for. Elizabeth Harman made a strong and important point; it was roughly this: When we give conferences we are educating the next generation, so we should have 50 % women philosophy speakers.

Whatever the right numbers, it is a very safe bet that a conference without women speakers, or with a very small minority of them, is not encouraging women to participate in philosophy.

But, you might say, you don’t think badly of women philosophers; you may an effort to include some, but it doesn’t always work out. Well, read below; in some ways it makes points made at the APA, but briefly and directly:

From Nancy Di Thomaso:

In a study I conducted among white workers, I found that 70% of the participants’ jobs, past and present, had been landed with the help of friends or relatives who were in a position to provide inside information, exert influence on the candidates’ behalf, or directly offer job or promotion opportunities.

Yet virtually all of these employees, as well as white managers I’ve interviewed, maintain that they oppose racism and are in favor of equal opportunity.

In my work on diversity, I often meet CEOs who are genuinely concerned about disparities and are highly motivated to increase their organizations’ diversity. Yet they frame the issue in terms of discrimination and “bias against.” They don’t see the powerful locked-arms effect of the “bias for” that’s prevalent in hiring and promotion decisions. I once spoke to an executive whose company was being celebrated for its commitment to diversity, but over dinner I was told proudly by one of the key HR managers that the company relies on referrals from existing employees for many of their middle-management hires.

Which brings me to take an unpopular stand: Up with bureaucracy.

I don’t mean the kind of bureaucracy that drives people crazy. I mean the kind that provides minority candidates with protections from biases that are embedded in corporate decision-making. It’s perfectly logical for managers to want to interview and hire known quantities—résumés can be opaque and mendacious, and there’s no Angie’s List equivalent for finding highly recommended employees (at least not yet). But when it comes to hiring and promotion, I’m in favor of a systems approach that reduces reliance on the kinds of judgments that lead to bad decisions—an approach that is measured not on process but on outcomes with regard to the competency, race, ethnicity, and gender of hired or promoted employees.

I’ll be the first to acknowledge that a systems approach can feel inadequate; the “numbers” never tell a complete story. Neither companies nor universities rely solely on test scores, because they know that doing so wouldn’t lead to the best outcomes. So the trick is creating a systems approach that evaluates candidates in a holistic way. That means an array of metrics, from competency tests to psychological profiles regarding fit for the job. Companies need to establish specific criteria on what constitutes competence in any given job, and they need to collect data on those specific criteria rather than rely on assumptions or impressions. To be effective, metrics need to be specified in advance, and they need to be up to date and not based solely on managerial perceptions.

Part of the solution is a new mind-set on executives’ part. There’s abundant evidence that just trying harder or wanting to do better doesn’t make a difference. What does matter is being conscious of the decisions we are making—we need to move these crucial decisions from the unconscious to the conscious realm. If we think about being accountable for the decisions we make, and if we stop believing that we can make truly unbiased or objective decisions, then we are less likely to make decisions that reflect implicit or unconscious bias in favor of people like ourselves—and more likely to end up with a workforce that is more diverse and better fits the needs of our organizations and their global clients.

 

 
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