Another CU-Boulder investigation August 26, 2014
Louise Antony (Guest Post) on Hilde Lindemann’s comments August 20, 2014
Louise Antony writes:
In light of the discussion on Brian Leiter’s blog, I want to say something in support of Hilde Lindemann’s comments in the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on the East Carolina U/Colin McGinn incident. Many commenters are incensed that Prof. Lindemann seemed to endorse the use of “unofficial information” (as Daily Nous put it) in decisions such as the ECU Phil. Department’s vote to offer a distinguished visiting position to Colin McGinn. I’m baffled by this. Is there anyone out there in Bloggo-land who wants to say that scholarly achievement is the only consideration that should count in deciding whether or not to offer someone a position? (Anyone who says that it is the only thing that counts is simply wrong.) Every department I’ve ever been affiliated with has always – and quite rightly — taken into account both the candidate’s likely collegiality and his or her potential as a teacher and mentor. So now the question is: what kind of evidence can one use in assessing a candidate’s collegiality and potential as a teacher and mentor? Postings on a public blog can provide evidence. Disciplinary actions taken by a candidate’s previous employer can also provide evidence. What about the appropriate standard? Bearing in mind that a hiring meeting is not a criminal trial, that there is no “presumption of innocence” to be overcome, and that an individual’s being brought up for consideration does not engender any presumptive right to the position, it’s clear that the appropriate standard is the one typically used in normal hiring deliberations: what, given the evidence, is it reasonable to believe about how this colleague will behave toward his or her colleagues and students? An official finding that a person has engaged in sexual harassment is certainly very strong evidence that that person is untrustworthy – but it’s not the only evidence that can support that conclusion.
I understand that there’s tremendous concern about false accusation and innuendo – at least when the case at hand involves men and sex. So yes, the evidence needs to be looked at carefully in any particular instance. But are hiring committees supposed to ignore the evidence that exists? Are they supposed to disregard the fact of disciplinary actions taken by a previous employer? Are they supposed to ignore what the candidate has to say about the matter on a public blog? A decision not to offer a position to someone because there’s good reason to think the person is a danger to students is not a violation of anyone’s rights. A decision to go ahead and appoint such a person despite the evidence is reprehensible.
McGinn hiring blocked August 18, 2014
Administrators at East Carolina University have turned down the philosophy department’s request to award a one-year endowed professorship to Colin McGinn—a prominent philosopher who resigned from the University of Miami in December following allegations of sexual harassment by a female graduate student.
For the Chronicle story, go here.
For words of wisdom from Eric Schliesser, go here.
For a discussion about use of unofficial information in hiring go to the Daily Nous.
Eric Schliesser on the Boulder situation August 8, 2014
As usual, Eric has many thoughtful things to say. Here are just a couple of them.
It is encouraging that after the settlement, the victim has decided to stay in the profession and at Boulder; this suggests to me that there is reason that the majority of our peers at Boulder are, in fact, already (quoting Curtis) “making progress.” Our colleagues at Boulder deserve our respect and support in doing so. It’s not impossible that in doing so they are, in fact, showing the way forward to the rest of us…
As I claimed a few month’s ago, victims’s lawsuits “and the harsh light of publicity are the best means to destroy the culture of silence in the profession and to give everybody incentives to do the right thing (protect victims and to ensure that success goods are not abused). It’s a sad fact that the victims and relative powerless are the ones that are now the best hope for reform and wisdom. But that’s how the situation looks to me now.” The size of the settlement $825,000 at Boulder is of the right order of magnitude to generate the right incentives.
As readers know, I spend a lot of time talking to people in departments with climate problems. One issue that arises in many cases is how to deal with the continued presence of people who are known or suspected to be a problem. Sometimes this is someone who has “done their time”– e.g. had a year of unpaid leave; sometimes it’s someone who was cleared of all charges but about whom suspicion still lingers; sometimes it’s someone trailing a history of well-known problems. What often comes up in conversations is the question of how to react to these situations. The situations differ from each other in many, many ways. But what’s common to them is that they create difficulties for the community– how to make the department as safe and welcoming a place as it can be for everyone is chief among them. What I’m asking about is not the formal remedies– in these cases they have already run their course. My concern is with what those concerned about climate can do to cultivate as good an atmosphere as possible in such a challenging situation. These situations are in fact quite widespread, so I’m guessing there is a lot of knowledge out there in our readership. I’d be grateful for your thoughts.
Sexual harassment in science: very common in field work July 18, 2014
I am frequently asked whether philosophy is worse than other fields for sexual harassment. I always reply the same way: we cannot get reliable statistics for something so unreported, and so often sealed under confidentiality when it is reported. I also frequently encounter scientists who are shocked by the stories from philosophy. But this shock of course doesn’t show that similar things don’t go on in their fields: after all, philosophers are shocked by these stories too.
Now we know a bit more about what goes on in some other fields, though, and it doesn’t look good. At least in scientific disciplines involving fieldwork, sexual harassment is a very big problem.
Who bears responsibility? July 17, 2014
Important questions about sexual misconduct in philosophy, being asked by Heidi Lockwood over at Daily Nous. Go join in the discussion!
How one college handled a sexual assault complaint July 15, 2014
There is a really important look inside how one school (not atypically) handled a sexual assault complaint at the New York Times:
At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.
Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.
The woman at Hobart and William Smith is no exception. With no advocate to speak up for her at the disciplinary hearing, panelists interrupted her answers, at times misrepresented evidence and asked about a campus-police report she had not seen. The hearing proceeded before her rape-kit results were known, and the medical records indicating trauma were not shown to two of the three panel members.