Kagan: Opposing Voices

JJ’s last post on Kagan was about Lessig’s defense of her. I get the impression that Americans may be getting deluged with anti-Kagan articles. But I’m not, and I know many of our readers are, like me, not in the US. (I normally keep up, but I’ve been preoccupied by the UK election. And marking.) So, for those who want to know what those worrying about Kagan are saying, here are two examples.

Here’s Guy-Uriel Charles:

How could she have brokered a deal that permitted the hiring of conservatives but resulted in the hiring of only white faculty? Moreover, of the 29 32 new hires, only six seven were women. So, she hired 23 25 white men, 5 six white women, and one Asian American woman. Please do not tell me that there were not enough qualified women and people of color. That’s a racist and sexist statement. It cannot be the case that there was not a single qualified black, Latino or Native-American legal academic that would qualify for tenure at Harvard Law School during Elena Kagan’s tenure. To believe otherwise is to harbor troubling racist views.

Third, what is the justification for putting someone on the Supreme Court without a demonstrated commitment to opening barriers for women and people of color? Kagan’s performance as Dean at Harvard raises doubts about her commitment to equality for traditionally disadvantaged groups. I am eager to be convinced that she is committed to full equality for marginalized groups, but I’d like to see the evidence.

And here’s Glenn Greenwald:

Among the most disturbing aspects is her testimony during her Solicitor General confirmation hearing, where she agreed wholeheartedly with Lindsey Graham about the rightness of the core Bush/Cheney Terrorism template: namely, that the entire world is a “battlefield,” that “war” is the proper legal framework for analyzing all matters relating to Terrorism, and the Government can therefore indefinitely detain anyone captured on that “battlefield” (i.e., anywhere in the world without geographical limits) who is accused (but not proven) to be an “enemy combatant.”

Thanks to Anon “Sr” Philosopher for putting me on to Charles’s article, and also for introducing me to the blog Colored Demos, which looks excellent. He also responds to some critics of his worries about Kagan here, and it’s really worth reading. Oh, actually it’s so good I’m going to quote it too:

[Defenders] contend that it is unfair to criticize the actual numbers of women and minority faculty hired during Kagan’s tenure as Dean because faculties, not Deans, vote offers to new faculty members. Yet, in the same breath, Kagan’s supporters also point to the ideological diversity that Kagan brought to the faculty by bringing in a number of prominent conservative scholars. Well, to put it bluntly, you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If Dean Kagan cannot be criticized for the lack of racial and gender diversity in faculty hiring because those votes were out of her hands, she also cannot be praised for increasing ideological diversity among the faculty. That, too, must have been out of her hands.

It may very well be that it was much harder for Dean Kagan to move Harvard Law School in the direction of increasing racial and gender diversity on the faculty. But if that’s the case, why won’t her supporters simply admit it? Why won’t they admit what we already know about implicit bias and how such bias can affect evaluations of women and minority candidates, even by progressives who may write about or support racial and gender equality in their own scholarship?

And for Equality Minister, we bring you…

a homophobe!

[Theresa May] voted against equalising the age of consent and in 2000, she voted against the repeal of Section 28, legislation that banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by local government and schools.

In 2001 and 2002 she voted against gay couples jointly adopting children…

In 2008 she voted in favour of a defeated bill which said that IVF rights should require a male role model- effectively discriminating against lesbian fertility rights.

You may want to join this facebook group.

(Thanks, elp!)

Sloppiness on the hiring record?

At this stage in the nomination process with Kagan I’m looking principally at how the media are reporting her.  Since she’s reported widely as having a very bad hiring record in diversity, we should look also at some dissenting voices.  Here is Lawrence Lessig, a progressive and a colleague of hers at Harvard Law School, on Democarcy Now:

I am a law professor, a tenured law professor. Let me tell you, law professors can be extraordinarily sloppy. And the analysis that was made of Elena’s, quote, “hiring record” is extraordinarily sloppy. The relevant question is, who are the people in the comparable institutions that were hired by Stanford or by Yale, who are minority or women, who Harvard did not make offers to and Elena didn’t try to persuade to come. And there just are no people in this list or no people that would support—no numbers that would support the basis to draw a suggestion that in some sense she’s being biased in her judgment.
In fact, while she was at the Harvard Law School, she launched one of the most aggressive programs to recruit young scholars into the teaching profession, in particular, in areas of civil rights. She launched a civil rights teaching program to bring people in and to give them the experience necessary to make it possible for them to become teachers. Now, that kind of experience is why people on all sides—this is not a law school where the conservatives love her; this is a law school where everybody in the law school, except one or two people who are known for their cantankerousness, love her, because she demonstrated that kind of commitment. And so, I think the sloppy analysis of a couple law professors that look at raw numbers, rather than actual figuring out what happened, shouldn’t weigh in here.

So I think the point here is this:  given the amount of pressure universities are now under to diversify, one would expect hiring to reflect that; however, it isn’t as though all the others at Harvard’s level were hiring women and other minorities while Kagan wasn’t.

I’m attributing to him a suppressed premise; the first one about pressure.  Unfortunately, there are areas where we can be fairly sure it is false.  The last time I looked (which admittedly was about 4 years ago), the top schools in some science fields had really bad records for hiring African Americans, even though they had reasonable records for producing AA PhDs.  So the situation is at least unclear.

And from the fact that a premise Lessig appears to need is false, nothing follows about the truth-value of the conclusion!  (I must say something like that about 20 times a semester, at least.)

Save Kiana Firouz

Kiana Firouz is an Iranian lesbian film-maker, who fled to the UK. Her asylum application has just been denied.

Yes, they know she’s gay. Yes, they know she could be deported back to Iran at any time, and that if this happens, Firouz will most likely be sentenced to torture and death after being found guilty of the “unspeakable sin of homosexuality” because she has participated in explicit lesbian sex scenes in the movie, and been a fierce proponent for human rights in her country…

The denial of her application is appalling.

The EveryOne activists invite concerned readers to send protest e-mail messages to the British Home Office (public.enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk) requesting that Kiana receive refugee status as soon as possible, for she is a symbol of the international fight against homophobia and repression of gays and lesbians in Islamic countries.

Thanks, CR and Reel Aesthete!