Oregon: A different side of the story

which deserves to be heard. Hence, I’ve pulled this from comments and made it a separate post. In case you’ve been blissfully out of the loop, background can be found here, here, here and here. From Bonnie Mann:

As one of the feminist philosophers from the UO department, and by the way, there are four of us… I have just learned of this discussion and feel that something must be said. The entire discussion, as far as I can tell, seems to be based on a letter sent to Leiter, or to someone else and it got to Leiter, from one graduate student in our department. It might be more, there are a few people who share his perspective, I believe. This letter seems to have been taken at face value, however, with no hesitation whatsoever in assuming its factual worth.

There were allegations of sexual harassment at Oregon, there was an investigation by our affirmative action office, initiated by the chair of our program, I understand the investigation has finally concluded and that there will be some public announcement of the results at some point, but I dont have any more access to the official investigation or its results than you do, so I cant be sure…

The students at Oregon value the climate the department has been able to create for women in the past 15 or more years, after the old department which did have endemic sexual harassment issues was transformed by the work of a number of our current faculty members, including Mark Johnson, and former faculty members, including Nancy Tuana, into a program that values feminism and has been a wonderful place for women to study. That reputation was hard earned. If the allegations are substantiated, and even if they arent but some harassment occurred, and I dont assume harassment is always substantiated if it occurs, then we, like almost every other philosophy department are not perfect in this regard. Please name one department in which there is not a single male faculty member who behaves inappropriately toward women, ever. Given that we are members of a very sexist discipline, with a history of egregious behavior toward women, it is hardly surprising if Oregon would also face such issues.

The outcry of our grad students is in part an expression of their expectation that this wont happen at Oregon, in part their deep concern for any women who may have been harmed, and in part the product of wild misinformation and an attempt at secrecy around the investigation that failed (apparently such processes are supposed to be kept confidential until there is a finding that is made public–in fact I am not supposed to be writing this post).

I have been in a number of departments where the exact behavior that is alleged here occurred regularly and no one blinked. They dont get publicly raked over the coals because no one expects anything different from them. I have no doubt that I am the feminist accused of being more worried about the departments reputation than about the case itself.

I know the source of the accusation, so let me have the opportunity to set that part of the record straight. I was and am concerned about both. If a student in our program has been harmed, I want action to be taken. I spent years working to end violence against women, in the battered womens movement as an advocate and director of programs before I came to academia. I know that incidents of harassment and or violence against women can be mishandled in male-dominated contexts in at least two ways: 1. they can be ignored, covered up, or excused and 2. they can be used as political footballs by those motivated by other interests (remember how George Bush became the feminist president for a moment when he invaded Afghanistan to save the women) .

I was worried about both, and have worked hard, since the accusations came to light, to avoid both–if my urging some of the men in our department to stay focused on the issue of harassment and its investigation and not to use this case to slander the department as a whole or particularly its feminists is a “cover up” then you have your cover up, enjoy it. It is clear that I had reason to worry about both things, since the last thing that seems to be at issue in any of these discussions is the actual woman who may have been harmed, and the efforts to publicly defame the department without so much as a phone call to the affirmative action office to ask about the actual process or outcome of the investigation certainly harms a lot of other women–our feminist students, me, the other feminist faculty,; and some of us are beiing publicly hung here.

That this situation would be used as an occasion to discredit Linda Alcoff and her efforts is galling and wrong. There is no way she could have known about this situation, I didnt know about it until the investigation had been on-going for months. And let me say something about the investigation–when I did find out about it I set out to see what the hell was going on and I asked a lot of questions and kept asking them. After weeks of this, it was my judgment that the department had acted responsibly, if by department we mean the faculty. Those who knew or thought they knew something came forward. The chair asked for an investigation.

I cant say anything about the affirmative action office which conducted that investigation except that it took a long time and I am given to understand that they have recently concluded it. There was too much gossip and some people let personal stuff get tangled up with their legitimate concerns, no doubt about it. Some people found this situation to be a very convenient way of pursuing their own agendas and letting their hostility vis a vis the kind of philosophy UO does just fly. That kind of shit happens. But there was no cover up and no negligence on the part of those in leadership positions in the department.

And while this was going on, the hard work of feminist philosophers in the department continued. Three feminist dissertations were completed and defended in the spring, and two of those women have jobs. The first required feminist philosophy proseminar was taught to all first and second year grads in the fall, a new addition to the distinction we hold of requiring feminist philosophy of our grads, something, by the way, that makes some of our students and some faculty members uncomfortable or angry. The Beauvoir society conference was held at Oregon in the spring, and a number of feminist speakers were invited to campus and paid for their time.

If you really arent interested in promoting women in philosophy or valuing what women and feminists have accomplished, then continue to tear UO apart publicly. If you are, realize that weve just been through something that any other department could have gone through–that Im sure many other departments did go through without the public hanging. It was a painful process that fragmented our community in a way that I have not seen in my eight years at Oregon. It may be a long road back. That doesnt erase the work that weve done for almost two decades on behalf of women in philosophy, and it doesnt erase the fact that the actual allegations were not brought by the woman who brought them in order to give Leiter an excuse to defame Linda Alcoff or to provide a political football to those who would use these claims in that way. I dont know the results of the investigation yet, but I hope that they will be made public soon.

And now, a reminder: These discussions have been getting horrendously heated. Please would everybody remember to follow our Be Nice rule, and in particular to refrain from making uncharitable assumptions about *anyone*.

56 thoughts on “Oregon: A different side of the story

  1. You’re welcome. I figured many people striving to maintain sanity would have stopped reading that thread.

  2. I’ve re-attached my comment here for the same reason:

    As a UO graduate student who has been heavily involved in the investigation process and a signatory to the graduate letter that was distributed, I would like to second (almost) everything that Bonnie Mann articulates in her comment. UO graduate students expect that this sort of thing does not happen here, precisely because it is a fantastic place for women for all the reasons Bonnie cites. A group of us wrote and other graduate students signed the original letter out of frustration with the AA process, which included the implied suggestion that the ‘scandal’ was widespread knowledge amongst the faculty. Indeed, this was not the case, and it was out of an expected commitment to feminist philosophy and a climate of ‘women-friendliness’ that the graduate community at UO distributed and signed the original letter. I can only guess that it was similar frustration with this entire process–which, no doubt, has fragmented our community just as Bonnie described–and a firm commitment to feminism and the equality of women philosophers that prompted the email that was written to Leiter. Some will disagree with me on that assessment. Either way, it is unfortunate that Leiter decided to append our name for the purposes of raking us, and Linda Alcoff, through the coals. The world and our discipline remain male-dominated, and it is unfortunate that this problem, which has only been taken seriously BECAUSE of our commitment to feminism and women-friendliness, is now being used to tarnish the good work that goes on here as well as the work of Linda Alcoff. As for the allegations of ‘keeping quiet.’ First of all, I think it is pretty clear what announcing our problems is now doing on the forums. We are continuing our work to sort out the appropriate response to this issue as a department. Second, this mainly concerned the request of SWIP-UK to speak to the valor of the UO’s nomination for being a ‘women-friendly’ department. I can not speak to why graduate students did or did not reply to their request. I know that I chose not to reply because I was torn about the entire situation. We were asked to comment in the midst of our department reeling from the light of this issue, yet I firmly believed (and continue to affirm) that we are a good place for women. I was never able to formulate a response that adequately reflected this, and for that I do apologize to the entire community. I also agree with Bonnie’s disappointment that the concern of the philosophical community is not with the well-being of the accuser, but rather as a point of disciplinary in-fighting. Shame.

    Anonymous UO Feminist Grad Student wary to sign my name only out of concern for future job prospects. If this anonymity becomes an issue, I will append my name.

  3. Thanks so much for the comments from Bonnie Mann and the anonymous Oregon graduate student. I still think it’s healthy that all of these issues are being aired, and I’m also glad that the Oregon folk feel comfortable pushing these issues from various sides. It has to be at least a minimal sign of health as a department and as a program that various people from Oregon feel comfortable making initial efforts at discussion.

  4. Also, while I’m blabbing on, I hope this additional comment is appropriate. As a person from an analytic background and training (and someone who is *proud* of the training he has received and thinks it is good training), I’ve been rather dismayed at the systematic criticisms of departments like Oregon’s for the *quality* of work they do. I’ve had the chance during my dissertation process to read the work of several Oregon faculty members, particularly Mark Johnson’s work on metaphor, Beata Stawarksa’s work on Merleau-Ponty and cognitive science, and a piece by Bonnie Mann (a piece in Hypatia called “The Lesbian June Cleaver”). I found all of it to be extremely helpful for my own work, and Mann’s piece in particular I found enlightening.

  5. A response to some of Bonnie Mann’s remarks, but I do not comment on the situation at Oregon, but on the “Pluralist’s Guide” (and thus focus on Bonnie Mann’s points on this issue):

    “That this situation would be used as an occasion to discredit Linda Alcoff and her efforts is galling and wrong. There is no way she could have known about this situation, I didnt know about it until the investigation had been on-going for months.”

    First, this is EXACTLY one of the central objections against the methodology used for the PG’s climate for women report. By asking a limited number of outside persons but none of the students and faculty within the department, several departments may make it on a list of women-friendly departments simply because the outside persons do not know about it. The makers of the PG cannot be faulted for not knowing about problematic situation within some department, but they can be faulted for using a method that is prone to erroneously recommend such departments as women-friendly. (Indeed, in her point 1 at http://tinyurl.com/3kyw3ll argues for NOT surveying the female graduate students within a department based on the idea that this may not reveal problems because of “the climate of secrecy around problems that exists in many places”, but then in point 2 she turns around and proclaims that “there is reliable information about departments known to people outside those departments”.)

    Second, and less importantly, by now Linda Alcoff does know about the situation, but Oregon is still listed as a department recommended to women. This is despite the fact that (a) Linda Alcoff earlier defended the listing of some departments as problematic for women against objections against her methodology on the grounds that she cannot and will not just ignore compromising information when it is brought to her attention (point 5 at http://tinyurl.com/3kyw3ll), and (b) there have been recent changes made to the PG website (including the removal of Oklahoma among the departments deemed to be problematic). Given that a link to the Rutgers students’ letter was posted at the PG website (to qualify Rutgers listing as problematic for women), the letter from the Oregon student should be posted on the PG as well, independently of whether the allegations against Oregon are true. (If this does not happen the authors of the PG will look like selectively using information and can be faulted for this.)

    “Please name one department in which there is not a single male faculty member who behaves inappropriately toward women, ever.”

    I do not challenge this, but the relevant issue is that Oregon — unlike many other department — is listed on the “Pluralist’s Guide” as recommended for women. Departments that are thus recommended need to meet higher standards than others.

  6. This is not intended as a hostile remark, but it struck me and surely will strike other readers, and I’d like to see what people think about it.

    A claim Mann makes seems to be that sexual harassment can happen even in a department that is in all other respects woman-friendly, and, if anything, that the seriousness with which the events at Oregon were taken supports the view that Oregon is woman-friendly. Without prejudice to all the other myriad ways in which Oregon could be woman-friendly, isn’t it the case that having a sexual harasser on staff suffices all by itself to make a department not woman-friendly? I’m not a woman, so who knows whether my intuition about this is right. But if I had to weigh against each other a) strong support for feminist philosophy, excellent mentorship for women graduate students, a culture of mutual respect and courtesy, and the taking seriously of sexual harassment charges, and b) the presence of a sexual harasser on staff, I might conclude that the department is (net) not nearly woman-friendly enough for me.

    Further, granting that there are only allegations of harassment and nothing has been verified yet, does it not (in light of concerns voiced above) behoove the department to turn down any official recognition for “woman-friendliness” pending the outcome of the investigation? One might not want to besmirch the reputation of someone who might turn out to be free of blame. But surely declining to accept recognition for woman-friendliness does not mark any one faculty member in particular. And moreover it prevents prospective students’ being misled and ending up somewhere that (it might turn out) they really ought not to be.

  7. A correction to my post (#7): My second link goes to the wrong target, it should read ” she cannot and will not just ignore compromising information when it is brought to her attention (point 5 a thttp://tinyurl.com/3zzeh5q)”.

  8. I have to say that I think the substance of these later remarks is simply to say that it is never possible to judge a place to be friendly to women. Ever. I disagree. Feminists can indeed make such judgments in light of the “total concrete situation” to use Beauvoir’s important phrase, in which we find ourselves. This is not a claim for purity, it is a claim for better rather than worse. Oregon surely, given the things you’ve listed that we do right, belongs on Alcoff’s list, given that not even the critics here can seriously claim you can find a philosophy department of any size free of sexism. The point is that feminists are competent to make these judgments, and to make recommendations to students based on them., no matter how uncomfortable this claiming of epistemological authority is for those who are used to having it all to themselves. If I thought that an allegation of sexual harassment that was appropriately under investigation and had not been substantiated, the allegation alone, made it appropriate to remove Oregon from consideration for such recognition I would have said so. I don’t even think a positive finding would merit such a move, given, again, that I can hardly imagine that the behavior that is alleged doesn’t exist in every department of any size. I have in fact never spoken to a woman who has been in philosophy for any length of time who is not aware of such behavior or experienced it herself. Given that, the claim that the only legitimate position from which to praise a department’s work for women is one of purity is just a claim that there is no legitimate position from which to praise a department’s work on behalf of women. What good does that do anyone except those who have absolutely no interest in bettering the lot of women in philosophy in any case? Posted by Bonnie Mann, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Universityof Oregon

  9. Bonnie (if I may),

    I didn’t mean to suggest there is no circumstance under which a department might be evaluated as friendly to women. Rather, my claim was that sexual harassment should weigh comparatively heavily in any listing of pros and cons for a department, and, it seems to me, one might reasonably think it weighs heavily enough as a con to outweigh rather a lot of pros, including those I granted for the sake of argument. So, to use Beauvoir’s phrase, my intuition is that sexual harassment, if present, would be a quite large and weighty part of the “total concrete situation”. If I read you correctly, you disagree with me about how large, but correct me if I’m wrong.

    If one accepts that, then it seems to follow that although an unproven allegation is not to be weighted as proven sexual harassment, it is in bad faith with respect to prospective students to accept public plaudits for woman-friendliness until the allegations have been appropriately investigated. Not accepting an award does not amount to an admission of guilt. In this case, it would amount to not wanting to make a claim on behalf of the department’s woman-friendliness until there was reasonable certainty that the claim was true. I take it you dispute that as well (the bad faith claim), but I imagine that dispute to some extent depends on the first: just how important sexual harassment is in the weighing of pros and cons. At any rate, I’m running largely on intuition here (maybe outright sexual harassment just isn’t as uniquely awful a problem as I think?), so I don’t want to say much more until others weigh in.

  10. I guess there is also an empirical part of your argument, namely that the kind of behaviour alleged at Oregon is so widespread as to be (for evaluative purposes) trivial except in its absence. I guess I can’t say much about that, not having the relevant information or experience myself.

  11. If Oregon is so militant about issues of sexual harassment such as to deserve this award, why did it fall to the graduate students to force the issue? And why is this Professor still the director of undergraduate studies?

  12. Sorry for comment-spam: Bonnie, reading your post again, I now see that rather a lot turns on the empirical claim — that, for instance, we could agree that sexual harassment is a comparatively huge con, but that it is trivial for evaluative purposes because present everywhere equally. I must say, I have trouble believing that at first blush, but I am in no position to seriously dispute it.

  13. Bonnie Mann,

    You think your department belongs on the list of philosophy departments that are Strongly Recommended for women, even if there is a man on your faculty who regularly harasses women students and has sexually assaulted a woman student during office hours, because you cannot imagine that this doesn’t happen in all philosophy departments.

    Is that correct? I want to be sure I’ve got it right.

  14. Simon, a (hopefully) constructive observation if I may. I *think* this is a key claim in what Bonnie Mann is asserting:

    She writes: “The point is that feminists are competent to make these judgments, and to make recommendations to students based on them., no matter how uncomfortable this claiming of epistemological authority is for those who are used to having it all to themselves.”

    Hopefully, Prof. Mann will correct me if I’m wrong.

    The claim itself may or may not be true (I will remain strategically agnostic on this point). I call it out because it strikes me as central and potentially important to understanding the thinking at work behind the “climate for women” recommendations provided by the pluralist’s guide.

  15. Speaking as a woman in philosophy, my own experience is that there are a range of behaviors that count as “sexual harassment.” Though the case at this school sounds like it’s on the more serious end of the spectrum, if it’s one professor’s actions–and not widespread within the program–then I think that needs to be put in context.

    In my undergrad and grad programs, I certainly experienced various forms of sexual harassment–from male faculty members and from grad students (in both places). And yet the general “atmosphere” for women in my grad program was much better than the one in my undergrad program–that’s part of why I decided to go there. So while I think that sexual harassment needs to be taken very seriously, I don’t share the “intuition” that the presence of one sexual harasser on staff (as faculty) sufficies to make a program not woman-friendly.

    I don’t know enough about the larger context of this program (and I know nothing about the details of this case) to make a judgment, but I’m troubled by the in-principle assertion that this one case can be decisive in the way that some have suggested.

  16. (Thank you for breaking it up into paragraphs!)

    This comment really struck me:
    “If you really arent interested in promoting women in philosophy or valuing what women and feminists have accomplished, then continue to tear UO apart publicly. If you are, realize that weve just been through something that any other department could have gone through–that Im sure many other departments did go through without the public hanging”

    It seems as though she is claiming if one publicly criticizes UO, or continues to at least, then they aren’t interested in promoting women in philosophy etc. This seems like an absurd claim, but maybe I’m reading it wrong.

    Secondly, the “public hanging” probably has something to do with UO being on a public list strongly recommending it while under investigation for something negatively related to that recommendation. Unless of course you’re suggesting that a certain amount of such activity occurs at every school, so such activity should not disqualify it from being strongly recommended (which reeks of defeatism).

  17. I believe that Jamie and Paul sum up the two central points well.

    I need to add to Paul’s point though – apparently some self-identified feminists are also competent to decide who counts as a feminist, and they do so in such a way that anyone who does not share their judgments or accept their epistemic self-assessments doesn’t count as a feminist, regardless of the content of her written work or how much of her personal time she has devoted to feminist causes or advocacy for female students.

  18. As another graduate student in the philosophy department at Oregon, what I can add to this blog is a personal testament to what I have experienced during my time at Oregon…

    From my experience, this has been the best place for me to be at as a woman and feminist. I have never once felt slighted or unsupported; I have only experienced the best support at Oregon. I would not want to be at any other university and if I was not here, I most likely would not be studying philosophy. I would in fact still encourage any feminist and woman to come to this department.

    Additionally, I fully respect the commitment to pluralism and feminism that this department has, and from my experience, this is not a hand-wave or a marketing ploy; it is a habit that is at work in our department. Habits are never perfect, but at least they are doing work and in our case, I have experienced this habit as a positive one. The faculty respect and support the diverse interests of their students, and make strong attempts to make sure we can both communicate across “traditions” and that our diverse interests are indeed present in all of our syllabi. How and whether or not graduate students choose to take advantage of this or even acknowledge it, is not the fault of the faculty.

    However, I am not proud of the faculty member who is being accused of sexual harassment and obviously, I do not want this professor in our department if it is indeed true. Any graduate student disgust with our department seemed to lie in the fact that it did/does not seem like anything had/has been done in regards to the faculty member in question. After a departmental meeting some time ago, it became evident to me that the university policies and AAO here created much of our disgust. I will publicly say that I find the AAO policies to be inefficient for dealing with our concerns and for creating more internal tension in our department. This is in fact annoying, but it cannot be blamed on one person, a few people, or the entire faculty at large.

    I have trust in the leadership of my department to do the right thing when they in fact know what the results of the AAO investigation is. Until then, I am under the impression (perhaps others will disagree) that all people in our department are concerned about this issue and still, like always, are working hard to maintain the woman and feminist friendly nature that we take much pride.

    -anonymous feminist grad student at the Univ. of Oregon.

  19. It occurs to me that – whatever else it shows – this episode demonstrates the importance of universities having strong, clear, effective policies and practices for addressing sexual harassment.

    Has anyone had experience of an investigation working promptly and effectively? Or of an institutional policy which is well known and effective within academic departments? It would be great to have examples of what works (or at least, works better) – examples or links could be posted over at the ‘What we’re doing about what it’s like’ blog http://whatweredoingaboutwhatitslike.wordpress.com/

  20. I’d like to follow up on something suggested by Rebecca’s comment. “Feminist” – or more aptly for this discussion, “feminist philosopher” – seems to be ambiguous between a weaker and stronger reading. Namely:

    (i) someone who self-identifies as a feminist and is also a philosopher
    (ii) someone who works on feminist philosophy

    Many feminist philosophers in the sense of (i) aren’t feminist philosophers in the sense of (ii). I would likewise guess that many of the women who have spoken out after seeing their departments listed as needing improvement by the Climate for Women report are feminist philosophers of type (i).

    Is the claim that feminist philosophers of type (ii) are better able to judge the climate for women in philosophy departments than feminist philosophers of type (i) *who work in those departments*?

    If that’s the claim, then it’s a very strong one indeed. And one that’s likely to be upsetting to many feminist philosophers of type (i).

  21. Despite attempts above to link this letter to the controversy over the so-called Pluralist Guide, the only link that I can see is in the last part, where Prof. Mann says that she does not like UO’s situation being used in a public dispute about Prof. Alcoff (and by inference the Pluralist Guide). It seems to me that Prof. Mann’s post is about the situation at UO (and what it says about the prospects of women in the profession), not about the Rankings Wars.

  22. I would like to offer two comments based on my perspective as a relatively new junior faculty member at U Oregon. Given my status inside the department, my comments should be read with a grain of salt. Also, given that I am male, my comments should be taken with at least two grains of salt (the explanation for this will be obvious based on my comments below).

    **First, concerning whether or not UO’s Dept. of Philosophy has a hospitable climate for women studying and teaching philosophy, my own impression is that we most definitely do. This is a difficult thing to capture, defend, or rebuke, but allow me to offer one consideration. The action of the complaint that our graduate students issued in their public letter concerning certain (non-official) allegations of sexual harassment (which, to correct a misperception, came to the attention of nearly every graduate student in the dept well before they came to the attention of a majority of the faculty) was premised so far as I can tell on the assumption that the department and the university would take their complaints very seriously indeed. That our graduates felt motivated to write a public letter is an indication that our dept. has certain institutional mechanisms and cultural norms in place such that our grads feel that their concerns about sexual harassment matters will at least gain an honest hearing and not be systematically ignored or bring them undeserved scorn. This is more than can be said of many (obviously not all) other departments. My impression is that the climate for women in philosophy is so explicitly on the agenda at U Oregon that it thus feels natural to our graduate students to push these concerns as vigorously as they have. I do not personally take any credit for this (being relatively new) but I will say that I am proud to be part of such a department.

    None of this is to say that things are perfect in our dept with respect to these matters. Clearly they are not. But the healthiness of a dept’l climate should be judged not on the occurrence of isolated instances of harassment (my senior colleague has pointed out that these are bound to present themselves in a field and industry that is still too often dominated by patriarchy), but rather on how departments and universities deal with these instances when they occur. No one in our dept thinks we have dealt with these matters perfectly. But many of us are consciously and energetically working to address the many matters implicated therein. It has been difficult work for all of us. And we know that there is much more difficult work ahead.

    **Second, I would like to offer a meta-comment relating the discussion on this blog to the broader issues raised on the Leiter blog. One of our insightful female feminist graduate students has suggested to me in correspondence that it is unfortunate that the two UO contributors to the Leiter blog (i.e., the anonymous graduate student and the anonymous corroborating faculty member) are both males and thus that all three voices on the Leiter blog concerning the UO matters are those of men. This is unfortunate, our feminist graduate student pointed out to me, in part because this makes things over there whiff of that old-fashioned male-heroic ‘I am going to save the helpless women’ variety of pseudo-feminism. I believe that the two concerned male philosophers who contributed to Leiter were acting with the best of intentions. But I worry about their strategy of turning to Leiter as an ally in acting on these intentions, in part because I worry from a feminist perspective about the wisdom of expressing and offering support to Leiter over these matters.

    My impression (which I hope will be corrected if it is erroneous) is that Leiter is not a feminist, by which I mean that he does not appear to work on behalf of feminist concerns, even if he would (I am sure) express sympathy with such concerns if asked. For evidence consider, first, his cv here: . The words “feminism”, “feminist”, “woman”, “women”, “gender”, and “sex” do not appear in the searchable cv, across his hundreds of publications, presentations, dissertation supervisions, and other work.

    Consider, second, that approx. 7 of 56 (or 12.5%) members of Leiter’s Advisory Board for his Phil Gourmet Report (PGR) are women. Contrast this to the gender composition of the Advisory Boards for the Alcoff et. al. Pluralist Guide (PG): approx. 39 of 93 (or 41.9%) as follows: 2 of 10 (american), 9 of 38 (continental), 2 of 16 (race), 24 of 24 (feminism), 2 of 5 (lgbt): and note that the one category that Leiter apparently endorses the rankings of in his comments on his blog (i.e., the PG recommendations on phil race) is the most gender unequal category on the entire PG.

    Prof. Leiter is very accomplished, but his accomplishments do not appear to extend to professional work (research, teaching, and service) on behalf of creating hospitable climates for women in philosophy. This is not intended as a defamation of Prof. Leiter, but rather a neutral description of his research and professional interests so far as I can glean them from public sources (again, please correct me if my perception is skewed). My thinking is just that it may behoove many feminists to be clear about who is and who is not lending their energies toward feminist goals, even if one accepts (as I would assume some reasonable people do) that not everyone is under an obligation to work on behalf of feminist goals.

    I offer all this because it might be worth taking into consideration before siding up with the criticisms offered by Leiter. Leiter undoubtedly has the good motivate of wanting to defend healthy climates in which women can study and teach philosophy, but unfortunately his defense here has assumed the form of vehement criticisms of the work of Linda Alcoff and her colleagues on the PG. Consider that we have here in perfect little capsule yet another instance of a prominent non-feminist male philosopher rebuking a female colleague for raising feminist concerns in a professional context.

    So far as I can tell, Alcoff et. al. have done our discipline a valuable service in explicitly putting the very idea of ‘Climate for Women on Philosophy’ on the agenda of their PG guide to graduate programs. Leiter’s PGR guide has no such item on its agenda. Rather than agreeing with Alcoff that this is an important item that needs to be addressed on both PG and PGR, Leiter calls on Alcoff to remove this item from the PG altogether. And feminists on this blog and elsewhere support Leiter in that claim? I find this both puzzling and disheartening. Similar claims could probably be made about Leiter’s comments about the UO department of philosophy: rather than discussing the matter with our feminist philosophers and women graduate students, Leiter took a very selective portion of perspectives (the two male non-feminist philosophers previously mentioned) as basis for his judgments and without opening dialogue on his blog about the matter with open comments. And some feminists (e.g., on this blog) support Leiter’s one-sided assessments? This too is disheartening. But I also accept that my views may be too skewed with respect to the latter to enable a good perspective.

    I offer all this not to shame Leiter so much as to express a hope that feminists in the discipline might consider that their energetic work on behalf of women in philosophy may not be well-served by cozying up to Leiter’s style of criticisms, and may indeed even get co-opted by that general style. Rather than criticizing Alcoff et. al., in calling for a removal of the ‘Climate for Women’ section of the PG, maybe we could instead work with the PG folks to improve the methodology and accuracy of this section. To generalize this point, rather than criticize colleagues who raise feminist concerns, we (all of us, men and women) should work with them to better understand, articulate, and assess those concerns. This is a consideration in favor of listening first and more often to the voices of our women colleagues and graduate students as concerns such matters. Hence my own hesitation at chiming in my own (male) voice at such length. But there you have it.

    CK, Asst. Prof., Dept. of Phil., Univ. of Oregon

  23. As a female graduate student at one of the departments listed as needing improvement on the Pluralist guide, I would like to voice my support for the guide remaining where it is. My experiences in the past year at two of those three departments was indeed that of a “chilly climate”. Kudos to Ms. Alcoff and her advisors for bringing these issues to the surface.

  24. I am a little flabbergasted at this remark from CK: “Prof. Leiter is very accomplished, but his accomplishments do not appear to extend to professional work (research, teaching, and service) on behalf of creating hospitable climates for women in philosophy.”

    I thought about writing an extensive comment about all that Brian Leiter has done for women in the profession, but perhaps the best I can do is to quote someone with more authority:

    “I think Brian Leiter has been extremely supportive by calling attention to the issue and in addition by supporting it with his own anecdote. As far as I can tell, he’s done more publicly (at least, online) to support women than any other senior male philosopher in the field.”

    (This is LA Paul, writing in this FP thread: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/congratulations-to-beingawoman-blog/ )

  25. Let me add that I have good reason to think that Brian Leiter’s contributions in the “service” dimension of supporting women are substantive.

    must run, unfortunately!

  26. CK,

    In light of what Emily and Anne have just posted, may I commend to your attention magicalersatz elegant comment #23? Possibly you did not distinguish as clearly as you might have two senses of ‘feminist philosopher’.

  27. Has anyone had experience of an investigation working promptly and effectively? Or of an institutional policy which is well known and effective within academic departments? It would be great to have examples of what works (or at least, works better)

    When I was a graduate student in Philosophy at UNC-CH in the 90s, I (male) was sexually harassed by a (female) student in one of my classes. I went to the appropriate university office and they mediated a meeting immediately and when that failed provided excellent follow up. One of the other graduate students proctored the exam for me and my office mate handled the grading.

    I knew to do this because there had been a training session from that office in the dept and they gave a very handy set of guidelines.

    At the University of Maryland, College Park where I was postdocing in Computer Science, we had an PhD student who was being harassed by one of the IT staff. *Once I became aware of it*, I was able to direct her to the appropriate office (as well as notifying my boss and via him, the chair) and everything was handled rather effectively and quickly. The main problem is that she suffered in silence for several months. Other graduate students knew about it, but no one knew what to do.

    So, I think education about procedures goes helps a lot.

  28. All of passionate defending of oregon and cries that people are attributing bad intentions seems to me to STILL miss the point. All of this was supposed to be about the methodology of the climate guide. By Bonnie’s own admission, the makers of the guide and the people who filled out surveys didn’t even know any of this was going on, so had no opportunity to make an informed judgment about how the department was coping with the harassment case, etc. Which means that the methodology of the guide was not well-suited to collecting obviously relevant evidence, and hence that the guide runs a very high risk of false positives and false negatives. If – for purposes of argument – the guide was right about Oregon, it was in some odd Gettier-like sense. Which is why I think the climate guide is untrustworthy and potentially damaging. Which is all I have claimed, from the very start and consistently. I (still) don’t give a crap about anyone’s intentions, or about the strange-sounding internal politics of Oregon (which don’t sound very pleasant for women or anyone else, frankly), or any of this. I dearly wish we could finally just address the methodological issues without getting distracted by personal mishegas and grand political sturm und drang, though I fear I have ample evidence at this point that that is simply not gonna happen.

  29. Also, I don’t know how we all (including me) managed to fail to make this point by now, but:

    ONE QUARTER of the entire four-question survey on which the climate recommendations were based was this question, according to Alcoff:

    4. In this department, sexual harassment of female students is not a present day or ongoing concern.

    Strongly agree Strongly disagree

    5 4 3 2 1 No knowledge/ Not applicable

    So the makers of the guide *most certainly* officially considered this pertinent information, in and of itself, whether or not Bonnie Mann agrees. (Apparently she does not.) So we have exactly two possibilities: Either the people who filled out the survey for Oregon did not know about the harassment concerns and hence were giving unreliable data, or they rated Oregon poorly in this category and for some reason it was put on the list anyhow. (I will ignore the implausibly nefarious possibility that they knew about the issue but lied on the survey.) Either possibility demonstrates a serious structural weakness in the reliability of the guide.

  30. One issue that I fear is getting lost in this discussion – and Rebecca’s last comment helpfully brings us back to it – is the need for a healthy debate about methodology. For my part, I find the issue of methodology here terribly vexing, as it’s not clear to me that there is any methodology that can simultaneously address the two things that I hope we can all agree are important: namely, (1) identifying departments that do have climate problems, while (2) avoiding slanderous, false accusations. The general consensus, of course, seems to be that the Pluralist guide fails in both of these regards. Its rankings of women-friendly and unfriendly departments is embarrassingly bad, falsely ranking at least one women-unfriendly department (and probably more than one) as women friendly, and falsely (and slanderously) ranking more than one women-friendly departments as “needing improvement.”

    But now what would a better methodology look like? Although several possibilities have been discussed in various forums, none of them strike me as very promising. Consider for example anonymous graduate student surveys (an option that has received a good deal of online discussion and support). Could surveys of this sort really be reasonably expected to detect departments with genuine climate issues (i.e. would they do a good job of avoiding false negatives)? Right offhand there are serious reasons to doubt that they would. For suppose I am a graduate student in a high-ranking department that has real climate issues. Am I, or my fellow graduate students, likely to answer honestly? One would like to think so – yet there is an obvious conflict of interest. Each grad student in the department will be sure to know that if their department is found to have a poor climate, then that will reflect poorly on the department. (Just think, if you were a grad student, would you be happy if your department were outed in an online survey as having a climate unfriendly to women?). It would be nice, of course, to think that graduate students – particularly female graduate students – would be honest in these kinds of surveys, putting moral principle in front of perceived self-interest. But what real reasons do we have to think that they really would be honest? In my experience grad students are often fiercely loyal to their department even if it does have problems, and not only for reasons of self interest but also due to self-deception (“It’s not really that bad in our department”) and matters of identification (“it’s my department”). Indeed, internal perceptions and external perceptions of department climates often seem to me to be worlds apart. For example, the grad students in a given department may well say – in a large plurality – that their department has a good climate for women while the overwhelming opinion in the discipline outside of the department may be exactly the opposite. Moreover, it’s not hard to see how this can happen. Professor so-and-so may be a pretty decent guy around the department halls and in seminar but behave in the worst

  31. As another feminist graduate student in the UO department of philosophy, I would like to respond to the way in which the recent sexual harassment allegations within and the ‘woman-friendliness’ of my department have been discussed.

    With respect to the first issue, and despite the fact that I do not doubt the good intentions of fellow members of my department in raising this as a matter of public concern (esp. regarding the PG report and the SWIP-UK ‘woman-friendliness’ award), it is my opinion that the public who has concerned itself with this issue thus far are working from an impoverished account of the circumstances in our own department, some of which has been cleared up in other posts above. It must be further said that the PG report and the SWIP-UK award have been untimely (in the worst sense), in that the news of the allegations broke concurrently with the PG report going live and the SWIP-UK award consideration (note: these allegations were made public to grad students before most of the faculty were aware of them and before an informal or formal complaint was filed with the office of AAEO). This fact is important, for at least three reasons.

    The first is that the public comments that were first issued by members of our department are a grossly inadequate portrayal of the general opinion of the graduate student population (myself included) and faculty, and thus should not have been presented as a final account of the situation at hand. As CK indicated above, there are many of us devoting our energies to developing a constructive response (within and despite the strictures of institutional policy) to the situation, but this process will take time and it would be reasonable to expect that, even after an adequate period of time for reflection and action, those who have been most intimately involved in the process may not achieve consensus on the issue.

    Second, it is the case that most of the graduate student population knew about the allegations before most of the faculty. This is because this information was disseminated by a professor to grad students (which falls outside of standards of due process), and also because grad students (and not faculty members or undergrad students) were in the process of being interviewed by OAAEO regarding a request for an informal investigation (which was within the bounds of due process), though in the latter case we were asked to hold this matter in confidence (and many of us did, which incurred great distress and was, in my opinion, the cause of a great amount of distrust within our department, leading many of us grad students to believe that the faculty were possessed of information and were doing nothing about it). The upshot of these facts is that, in my opinion, it is inaccurate to accuse the faculty of inaction and thus to make the claim that it was “up to the grad students to do something.”

    Finally, it is of concern that those who have made the most strident public proclamations regarding the allegations at UO have been male. I have two thoughts on this matter. The first is that, especially regarding our status as a ‘woman-friendly’ department, it is the case that male members of that department ought not to be taken to be the authority on that matter. This ought to be common sense! If some are wondering at the (prior) silence of female members of our department, it is largely because we all take this to be a highly complex situation. In the interest of brevity, I will not further comment on that point. Second, the men who have leveled such harsh criticisms of our department did not broadly seek the perspective of women in our department before publicly criticizing our department to both SWIP-UK and Brian Leiter. If they had, there likely would have been some that would have supported them, but many of us would have remained convinced, despite the allegations, that we consider this to be a woman-friendly department, full stop.

    As to the woman-friendliness of our department, I will not recapitulate the comments and evidence that grad students and faculty have offered. Instead, I will offer my own anecdotal evidence. In considering graduate school, I have visited and spoken with members of many philosophy departments to gauge how woman-friendly they seemed. This was important to me especially because I am a single mother of two children. My inquiry into Ph.D. programs was limited to my areas of interest, of course, but it must be said that at Oregon I am made entirely comfortable in discussing the fact that I am a mother without this being taken to be an indication that I am, as such, a less competent philosopher or less capable of demonstrating or achieving merit. I have to ask, and especially given the handful of comments regarding the treatment of mothers in philosophy made on other blogs (e.g., http://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/which-people-can-have-families/), where else might I be where my personal circumstances (which must be explicitly addressed at various times: when the babysitter gets sick; when a child is ill; when I need more time [though not more time overall, with respect to time spent doing my research or coursework] to complete my work; etc.) are not only supported, but are also encouraged as an impetus toward developing philosophical positions with respect to certain issues, e.g., in epistemology and social and political philosophy? There may be no other department of philosophy in the world where this level of support is available for *mothers*, though I would love to be proven wrong!

    In this way, Oregon is both woman-friendly *and* feminist-friendly (a distinction which ought to be made, despite the fact that these are mutually implicated in some important ways that ought to be made as explicit as possible), and I cannot imagine a more supportive environment in which to make the transition into academia. My only concern is that my experience *after* Oregon will not be as fair, respectful, and supportive. I don’t fault my own department for creating an unrealistic environment, but rather regard my experience at Oregon as a benchmark for what kind of treatment to expect in my professional future, and will fight for it if it is not forthcoming (that is, if I get a job as an academic philosopher!).

    Given our current situation, I would heartily protest our department being removed of its status as woman-friendly, and would instead urge the philosophical community to recognize that already extraordinarily woman-friendly departments continue to face challenges and in response are doing *even more* to attain the most ideal institutional circumstances for women and other underrepresented social groups in academic philosophy. Please take note and follow suit.

  32. As another feminist graduate student in the UO department of philosophy, I would like to respond to the way in which the recent sexual harassment allegations within and the ‘woman-friendliness’ of my department have been discussed.

    With respect to the first issue, and despite the fact that I do not doubt the good intentions of fellow members of my department in raising this as a matter of public concern (esp. regarding the PG report and the SWIP-UK ‘woman-friendliness’ award), it is my opinion that the public who has concerned itself with this issue thus far are working from an impoverished account of the circumstances in our own department. The PG report and the SWIP-UK award have been untimely (in the worst sense), in that the news of the allegations broke concurrently with the PG report going live and the SWIP-UK award consideration (note: these allegations were made public to grad students before many of the faculty were aware of them and before an informal or formal complaint was filed with the office of AAEO). This fact is complex and important, for at least three reasons.

    The first is that the public comments that were first issued by members of our department are a grossly inadequate portrayal of the opinion of the graduate student population (myself included) and faculty, full stop, and should not have been presented as a final account of the situation at hand. As CK indicated above, there are many of us devoting our energies to developing a constructive response (within the strictures of institutional policy) to the situation, but this process will take time and it would be reasonable to expect that, even after an adequate period of time for reflection and action, those who have been most intimately involved in the process may not achieve consensus on the issue.

    Second, it is the case that most of the graduate student population knew about the allegations before most of the faculty. This is because this information was disseminated by a professor to grad students (which falls outside of standards of due process), and also because grad students (and not faculty members or undergrad students) were in the process of being interviewed by OAAEO regarding a request for an informal investigation (which was within the bounds of due process), though in the latter case we were asked to hold this matter in confidence (and many of us did, which incurred great distress and was, imo, the cause of a great amount of distrust within our department, leading many of us grad students to believe that the faculty were possessed of information and were doing nothing about it). The upshot of these facts is that, in my opinion, it is inaccurate to accuse the faculty of inaction and thus to make the claim that it was “up to the grad students to do something.”

    Finally, it is of concern that those who have made the most strident public proclamations regarding the allegations at UO have been male. I have two thoughts on this matter. The first is that, especially regarding our status as a ‘woman-friendly’ department, it is the case that male members of that department ought not to be taken to be the authority on that matter. This ought to be common sense! If some are wondering at the (prior) silence of female members of our department, it is largely because we all take this to be a highly complex situation, and I would be happy to provide greater detail on that matter. Second, the men who have leveled such strident criticisms of our department did not seek the perspective of women in our department before publicly criticizing our department to both SWIP-UK and Brian Leiter. If they had, there likely would have been some that would have supported them, but many of us would have maintained that, despite the allegations, we consider this to be a woman-friendly department, full stop.

    As to that issue, I will not recapitulate the comments and evidence that grad students and faculty have made with regard to the woman-friendliness of our department. Instead, I will offer my own anecdotal evidence. In considering graduate school, I have visited and spoken with members of many philosophy departments to gauge how woman-friendly they seemed. This has been important especially because I am a divorced mother of two children. My inquiry was limited to my areas of interest, of course, but it must be said that at Oregon I am entirely comfortable in discussing the fact that I am a mother without this being taken to be an indication that I am, as such, a less competent philosopher or less capable of demonstrating or achieving merit (even if my personal life poses constraints that others do not face). I have to ask, and especially given the handful of comments regarding the treatment of mothers in philosophy made on other blogs (e.g., http://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/which-people-can-have-families/), where else might I be where my personal circumstances (which must be explicitly addressed at various times, e.g., when the babysitter gets sick; when a child is ill; when I need more time [though not more time overall, with respect to time spent doing my research or coursework] to complete my work; etc.) are not only supported, but are also encouraged as an impetus toward developing my position with respect to certain issues in social and political philosophy? There may be no other department of philosophy in the world where this level of support is available, though I would love to be proven wrong!

    In this way, Oregon is both woman-friendly *and* feminist-friendly (a distinction which ought to be made, despite the fact that these are mutually implicated in some important ways that ought to be made as explicit as possible), and I cannot imagine a more supportive environment in which to make the transition into academia. My only concern is that my experience *after* Oregon will not be as fair, respectful, and supportive. I don’t fault my own department for creating an unrealistic environment, but rather regard my experience at Oregon as a benchmark for what kind of treatment to expect in my professional future, and will fight for it if it is not forthcoming.

  33. (continuing the previous comment)…kind of way while at conferences, etc. Indeed, it is not hard to believe that if our primary methodology were grad student surveys, a number of women-unfriendly situations would go undetected. What then? The only alternative would seem to be including surveys of people outside of departments – yet this is problematic for all of the reasons already discussed here and elsewhere. Opinions of people outside of a department are hearsay, and hence open to charges of slander. But then what’s left? “Objective” measures, such as a department’s gender ratios? These are surely poor
    measures of climate for obvious reasons (a department can have
    many women but still be a poor place for them to be, due to a single serial harrasser, for instance). Well, okay, then what? All of the
    methodologies out there seem to have very serious problems. Every methodology seems weighted either in the directionof generating false negatives (e.g. grad student surveys), or else false positives (e.g. discipline-wide surveys or the Pluralist’s mystery approach). Given these problems, might it be that we must choose between one of many bad options? Or, to put it another way, must we choose between
    methodogies that leave women vulnerable (i.e. false-negative generating
    methodologies) or methodologies that involve hearsay (which are apt to generate false positives and accusations of slander)? Am I missing something? I’m genuinely interested in getting a goor answer. We desperately need to make philosophy a better place for women, and yet none of our efforts so far seem to have worked very well (if personal experience and the What It’s Like blog are to be trusted). It is possible to root out sources of sexism effectively without hearsay?

  34. Regarding comments 32-34, is it possible that these simply belong in another thread, rather than one about Oregon’s side of the story? And besides, why must we criticize members of UO’s department for providing other public accounts of the recent allegations of sexual harassment and surrounding events, when the incident at hand has been taken to be an indication that the department was irresponsibly regarded as woman-friendly?

  35. Thank you (@Emily, Anne, and Jamie) for the corrections regarding Brian Leiter’s work in support of women in philosophy. It is good to hear this, and I was hoping I might be corrected on that matter. The link in #28 suggests that this matter is nonetheless highly contentious. That said, I think it may be distracting to here debate the merits of Leiter’s own politics (and I name myself as the first party who is guilty of this distraction, and I apologize for that).

    What remains a central point is that the recent instance fits the pattern of a senior male philosopher rebuking a woman colleague for trying to raise and vocalize feminist concerns. This doesn’t mean Leiter is a bad guy, it just means that his criticisms of Alcoff fall into a very suspect pattern, and as a result I think we ought to proceed with more caution before joining him in reubking Alcoff et. al..

    I accept that there are problems with the PG methodology regarding the ‘Climate for Women’ section. My view is that these should be addressed and these can be addressed. My post was only meant to encourage constructive commentary on that methodology in place of rebuking criticisms such as those found on Leiter’s blog (& elsewhere).

    What surprises me, and provoked me in part, was that so many people on this blog are joining Leiter’s voice in claiming that the PG Climate Guide is flawed. In strategic matters such as this, everything turns on where one places one’s emphasis. In my view, what is more deeply flawed, and where more criticism ought to be directed, is the fact that Leiter’s PGR does not even propose to include a Climate for Women Guide despite its (unfortunate) prominence in the discipline as a guide for graduate study in philosophy. In other words, where is the criticism of the PGR midst all this? Isn’t part of the deeper problem that Leiter never included, or proposed to include (to my limited knowledge; please correct if I am wrong) a Climate for Women guide on the PGR? A more constructive response to this problem is to proactively work with Alcoff et. al. to improve the very valuable service they propose to provide.

    In sum, I realize now that I am only repeating here a comment offered by a senior philosopher whose work (both in terms of scholarship and practical labor) I have long had immense respect for. So allow me to yield to her advice: “Why not make a constructive contribution to an ongoing effort? Could we all step back a moment to think about how to be collaborative rather than damning of a reasonable effort to supplement the dominant information available?” (Sally Haslanger, in comment at http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2011/07/more-on-the-spep-guides-climate-for-women-section-not-only-untrustworthy-but-potentially-damaging.html).

  36. To reply, no, I don’t think my comments belong in another thread. They are directly relevant. We have just seen three grad students come to their own department’s defense. One of the main problems I was trying to raise in my post is that grad students (in my experience) can be subject to self-deception and conflicts of interest. For example, although I would like to think otherwise, I can certainly imagine myself or other grad students I’ve known being utterly deluded about their department’s true climate (the sample-size for most grad students after all is 1 – their experience in their own department). I can also imagine people rushing to their own department’s defense even when it’s climate isn’t good. I raise these possibilities not in order to question the integrity of the three students that have responded hers (for all I know they are all absolutely right about their department). The very point of my post was a broad epistemological one about whose point-of-view we should trust in these matters. For my part, for example, it is hard to square these grad students’ evaluation of their department’s climate with the investigation that has occurred there. It seems clear from everything I’ve read that the alleged harasser in their department was obviously a problem, and that he simply wasn’t dealt with. Thus, from my perspective, whatever they might think of the climate in their own department – and again it might be a hunky dory place on a day to day basis – it sure seems from the outside that there was a predator in their midst and many people, feminists or otherwise, swept it/him under the rug (which in my view is more than enough to make a department women-unfriendly, however welcoming and feminist the department might otherwise be).

  37. I think that there has already been a great deal said about errors with the methodology of the ‘climate’ portion of the Pluralist’s Guide. Most conversation has focused on that. Here’s a further methodological question to raise, given the issues raised about Oregon.

    I believe the members of the department who state that Oregon provides a good environment for women to study philosophy in. The existence of a problem does not undermine their claims, as they seem to have been working on the problem appropriately.

    Given that, shoudn’t the creators of the PG move Rutgers over to the ‘strongly recommended’ category, as there has been ample evidence presented by members of that department that it is a great place for women to study philosophy?

    I think that people are rightly worried that the methodology employed has skewed the results such that certain kinds of departments have been favored, and others not, because hearsay and gossip between members of a small group were allowed to determine the results. That is, some departments were assessed without any of the evaluators speaking to a single member of the deparment (or, at least, this was admitted as POSSIBLY the case, which would be bad enough).

  38. I’m glad that some additional U of O grad students are speaking up now because it adds more useful information to the discussion. It also raises interesting questions about how to treat the testimony coming out of Rutgers and now U of O. In another thread, some more or less dismissed the Rutgers letter for reasons similar to Anonymous in comment #40 and it will be interesting if those commenters extend the same skepticism to the students from U of O. In contrast, Concerned Anonymous in comment #41 advocates taking both sets of students at their word and moving Rutgers into the “strongly recommended” camp.

    Rather than just moving schools from one existing group to another, it seems to me that all this suggests that it might be more useful and informative to revise the categories in the guide. Right now, the guide has only “strongly recommended” and “needs improvement” and this dichotomy has driven a lot of the problems with the guide. Given all the epistemic difficulties catalogued in this discussion and summarized above in comment 34, wouldn’t a more useful set of categories be something like “Actively Pursuing Measures to Achieve a Good Climate” and “Faces On-Going Issues”? That way, for example, U of O could plausibly be put into both groups while a school with on-going issues that wasn’t doing anything about it would only be in the “Faces On-Going Issues” group.

  39. Quick question. Suppose the allegations at UO turn out to be substantiated, and there is a serial harrasser in the department. Then suppose most of the people in the department agree with the grad students who have posted here that their department is “women-friendly.”. Wouldn’t that be a nodus tollens against their view? I mean, how can one possibly be right that one’s department is women-friendly if, as a matter of fact, there has been a man in their department walking around propositioning and groping students? Do we really want to say that a department is women-friendly just because many of the female grad students in it find it a welcoming place but it is in FACT a place where a man has been groping women. Isn’t sexual assault by a faculty by itself enough to make a place unfriendly to women? Could you in good conscience recommend a place to a female friend or daughter if you knew there was a sexual predator there? I couldn’t.

  40. @ Anon #40 (11:00 p.m.): The point of portions of our responses has been to indicate that the response to the sexual harassment allegations (despite the irresponsiveness of the office put in place to address these issues) is *ongoing* and, further, that claims that nothing has been done are ungrounded. It is true that little has been done *yet* because the university itself will not be pursuing action, having dismissed a young woman’s allegation on grounds of the expiry of the statute of limitations. I would argue that it is simply wrong to claim that we are doing nothing here at Oregon, though what is being done is happening more slowly than is desirable and despite institutional barriers.

    For example: we have met as a department to discuss strategies for responding to the situation; some of the grad students and faculty have drafted a letter to the administration registering our complaints regarding the process at OAAEO; students seeking undergraduate advising were redirected to others’ office hours during a portion of spring term. Unfortunately, more direct action appears to be prohibited at UO, though we will continue to assess the options available to us. Furthermore, some faculty who were on sabbatical over the last academic year are still being brought up to speed on the issue. Moreover, all of this is being done within an institutional context where the details of any allegation/investigation are held to be confidential.

    So, let us please discontinue, without detailed support, making the claim that nothing is being done at Oregon. Claims to that end are simply coming *too soon*, though the public discussion of the situation and situations like these, and how they reflect on women-friendliness are well worth having. It is worth noting, as others have, that the presence of a predator does not make the department unfriendly to women, per se (one would need to possess inhuman powers in order to assess a department on the basis of its unknown sexual predators), but it is instead the way that the members of the department respond to allegations, once they are made public. Given our continued efforts to respond effectively to the situation, I would continue to claim on rather substantial objective grounds that our department is friendly to women, both with respect to issues of sexual harassment (though this is a work in progress) and more broadly.

  41. Also @ #40: There are grounds for claiming that you are doing injustice to the testimonies of us grad students in making the claim that our testimony is to be distrusted. Our testimony may not be sufficient for an adequate assessment of our department (and none of us would likely claim that this is the case), but it is certainly methodologically necessary and there are good epistemological grounds for demanding that our testimony be considered as such.

  42. CK said: In other words, where is the criticism of the PGR midst all this? Isn’t part of the deeper problem that Leiter never included, or proposed to include (to my limited knowledge; please correct if I am wrong) a Climate for Women guide on the PGR?

    If one could be done in a way that worked (I’m a bit skeptical but open to being convinced) then a “climate for women” guide (or a general “climate” guide) would probably be a good thing. But I think that it’s a mistake to blur that with a criticism of the “PGR Mindset” (whatever that is- I’m really not sure.) The PGR purports to do one thing- measure faculty scholarly quality. People often take it to be doing things other than that, but they’re making a mistake when they do. I tend to think the PGR does a pretty good job, all things considered, of measuring faculty quality, though of course people can reasonably disagree on that. But it doesn’t claim to say where people should go to grad school (it says other factors it doesn’t measure are relevant, in fact), where people will have the best experience, or give advice on how often to change the oil in your car. It’s not meant to do any of those things. Given that it’s already pretty hard to do what the PGR tries to do, I would hope it doesn’t expand, as the real value it provides would likely be diluted. But of course, this doesn’t mean that people should not try to do a serious measure of department climate, if that can actually be done. It merely means that suggesting this must or should be done by the PGR is misguided.

  43. Re: CK @ #39

    At the risk of redundancy, *many* people are concerned about Prof. Alcoff conduct for very specific reasons that have *nothing* to do with “following” Brian Leiter, much less the fact that Alcoff is a woman, a feminist, a “pluralist”, or what have you. Many of these people are feminists, or feminist-friendly. All are concerned because of the methods Alcoff and her colleagues employed in pursuing important and worthy goals. This concern has been exacerbated, furthermore, by the lack (thus far) of a constructive response from Alcoff to legitimate questions and concerns.

  44. Is it possible that the U of O Phil Dept just has a culture that permits very lax and informal relations between students and faculty, such that despite the efforts of Mark Johnson and Nancy Tuana to clean up the joint, the flood doors have been opened to sexual harassers? This would suggest that U of O needs not just to have one faculty member removed, but needs a siesmic shake up in departmental leadership resulting in a major change in departmental culture. More strict and formal guidelines on what are and what are not acceptable student-faculty relationships might suffice.

  45. @43, perhaps it’s worth making a distinction between the climate and the “weather” at a department, where climate refers to the long term statistical trend and weather to the occurrent (or otherwise localized) situation. Thus, it might be the case that UO *does* have a woman friendly climate, but the current weather is bad. (And thus, one might well not recommend that someone go there unless the weather is clearing, in spite of the generally good climate.)

    Obviously, one doesn’t want to discount the general regularities (either way) when making a decision. But, after all, no matter how good the climate, it’s impossible to rule out the possibility of bad incidents or runs thereof. (Of course, a generally good climate can make such incidents easier to cope with.)

  46. The repeated claims that the presence of active sexual predators on the faculty does not make a department unfriendly to women, and the even stronger claim that it should have no bearing at all on whether a department should be publicly lauded for friendliness to women, show such callous disregard that they simply boggle the mind. Even if a department is actively trying to get rid of the predator (and it’s not clear from what’s been said that UO is doing that – first we’re being told that the results of the official investigation aren’t public yet, then we’re told that the predator is getting away on a technicality and is back to his usual supervisory duties), while the predator is there, the department cannot be in all conscience “strongly recommended” for women. No matter how many “feminists” are willing to endanger women by saying so.

  47. I’d like to second the suggestion above that future surveys contain more categories. For the more I mull over UO’s situation, the more apt it seems to me to say that while its climate for women is in general very good, it is, at the very least, in the midst of some very bad weather.

  48. “Is it possible that the U of O Phil Dept just has a culture that permits very lax and informal relations between students and faculty.”

    As a grad student at the U of O, I can confirm that this is indeed accurate, going back as long as I have been here.

  49. So, having a culture permitting lax and informal student-faculty relations should count heavily against a department being considered “woman friendly.” Such a culture invites sexual harassment cases. Also, if the root problem is U of O’s departmental culture, removing the sexual harasser from the department won’t solve the problem, and neither should it count in favor of the dept being considered woman friendly.

  50. It’s difficult to believe that some of these comments from Oregon are for real. The consensus among the Oregon professors and students who have spoken up seems to be that
    (1) since philosophy is simply rife with sexism, the fact that there was an actual incident of sexual harassment at Oregon could not possibly say anything meaningful about Oregon’s climate for women;
    (2) the males who have spoken up to criticize the Pluralists’ Guide are themselves enacting some sort of sexist ritual, in which they try to save the damsel in distress Oregon graduate students – and this ritual is sexist because it ignores the stated opinions of Oregon students themselves, who by all accounts (a) were asked to keep quiet by a feminist philosophy professor in their department and (b) were not consulted in the Pluralists’ Guide.

    If there’s a next edition of the Pluralists’ Guide “Climate for Women” section, it seems the contingent from Oregon believes that incidents of sexual harassment say nothing specifically bad about a school’s climate for women, but that male attempts to denounce sexual harassers do. The editors should take note. Groping: insignificant. Griping about groping: sexist.

  51. @50: Once again, it is not the case that a department with an active and known sexual predator allowed to maintain his practice is friendly to women. This is not the claim. I had been drawing a distinction between known and unknown predators, since it hadn’t been drawn clearly. Furthermore, there is a vast difference between a known and substantively accused perpetrator of sexual harassment who is allowed to retain his position in a department without comment, and a department in which its members actively collaborate with one another to figure out what to do in light of a very challenging institutional framework. While there may be institutional barriers to our being able to more straightforwardly isolate this faculty member (if he could even accurately be called an “active sexual predator,” a fact which is contested, though many of us are acting as if this is the case), there are other unofficial means of preventing harm to women. Women have many long-standing practices surrounding issues of this kind, like just warning other women that they should avoid a particular professor or fellow student. In other words, where you can’t get rid of a potential sexual harasser for some reason or another, one must actively cultivate an environment in which this person is shunned until he/she clears him/herself of allegations against himself/herself. See: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/03/30/philosophers_consider_what_to_do_about_sexual_harassment

    Also: One can refuse to work for a particular professor. One can act in concert with others when certain members of the department have their hands tied by institutional strictures. One can openly rebuke the professor. These are not ideal solutions, as they do not root out the problem of sexual harassment in toto, but one must act where one can while always working toward the ideal.

    @49: I like the distinction between “climate” and “weather.” We are, undoubtedly, in the midst of some bad weather. The more refined our designations can be with respect to this issue, the better a service it will be to women who are seeking to pursue the Ph.D. in philosophy.

  52. For a myriad of reasons, communication on the web can be very difficult. Part of it may be that it invites one to express oneself very casually, but it sends those words out to thousands or millions of people. And they sit there, subject to as much scrutiny as people have the energy to give. Perhaps it is similar to speaking – one thinks – off camera and then finding one’s remarks on the news or in a law suit.

    In any case, I am convinced that there are people of great good will who, for whatever reason, are being made now to feel very uncomfortable about what they’ve said here. There are ways of approaching someone’s questionable statements that invites them into a friendly reconsideration. It ought to be possible to be really wrong in public without feeling any clarification will be even more risky. That is not happening now, and so this discussion is once again closed.

    Please, any Fp Bloggers, open it up again if you think that better. I’m taking unilateral action because I think you’re probably asleep in some exotic place, like England.

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