CFP: Gender and Ethics in the Profession

APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy

Call for Papers

Due Date: December 1, 2012

Gender and Ethics in the Profession

Philosopher should be particularly sensitive to ethical issues in the profession of philosophy. However, there is plenty of evidence that not all philosophers are. This leads to unethical behavior in teaching, mentoring, research, administration and collegial relations.  This issue of the APA Newsletter shall consist of papers addressing different aspects of ethics in the profession of philosophy in relation to gender. Submissions on any related topic are welcomed. The issue shall feature Naomi Zack’s work on cronyism in the profession.

Atos and the UK Government

This makes me so mad I can’t see straight. As folks will no doubt know, the UK government has outsourced disability benefit assessments to a company called Atos – ironically, they are one of the paralympic sponsors. Atos have targets for removing benefits. This is in spite of the fact that according to the government’s own figures, disability benefits are only overpaid by 2% through fraud and error (0.8% customer error, 0.5% DWP error, and 0.7% fraud). The assessment record is shameful. Cancer patients have been pronounced fit to work; there is no proper provision for fluctuating conditions; ;there have been deaths from suicide, stress, and exhaustion brought about by dealing with the new benefits system. Here’s just one, of many, many examples of an Atos benefits assessment:

My friend Polly has a severe form of Crohn’s disease. She’s been given countless different medications, and operations to remove parts of her small intestine. In fact, her Crohn’s is so resistant to the strongest medications and surgery available that she was referred to an experimental chemotherapy and stem cell transplant medical trial. If Crohn’s were a video game, she is playing it on hardest difficulty, with no cheat codes and a broken controller.

Atos sent a doctor to assess whether she could re-qualify for benefits. On arrival, he told her that he’d never heard of Crohn’s Disease. Forgive me for being pedantic, but a doctor who hasn’t heard of Crohn’s Disease isn’t a doctor. That’s like a dentist who hasn’t heard of gums, or a plumber that’s never heard of pipes… I had heard rumours that Atos doctors mark people down if their illness isn’t visible. Which seemed ludicrous even for Atos. As if the only three kind of illnesses are eczema, nosebleeds and an unfortunate haircut. Cancer? Look mate, unless you’ve got cancer of the face, we’re not interested. Get back to work! Sadly, Polly has confirmed the rumour. One of the very few notes the Atos doctor wrote was “No obvious external signs of generalised systemic disease found”. Because for most people, their intestines are an external organ… we suddenly seem to have forgotten the past 150 years of medical and social progress, and are instead guessing whether someone is ill based on whether they can raise their arms, and walk five metres. (Those are genuinely the only two physical tests Polly’s Atos doctor used to see if she was disabled.)

Note, as Zoe Williams and others have forcefully argued, the fact that it’s Atos conducting these assessments shouldn’t lead us to think that this is their fault. There is, hopefully, a special place in hell reserved for those doing such dirty work, but Atos are employed by the UK government, using assessment criteria the government has devised.

PhDs before 2010 need not apply

If you got your PhD in English or American Studies before 201o — especially right before, oy — you might be relieved that the job market is actually showing signs of recovery, unless you see this ad from Colorado State University, which includes this eyebrow-raiser:

Required qualifications:

  1.  Ph.D. in English or American Studies or closely related area awarded between 2010 and time of appointment

As Brian Leiter says, hopefully no philosophers would write such an ad.  In the meantime, though, I smile at the close of the search committee chair’s reply to Chad Black’s query, “We hope you will distribute this position description to any qualified applicants you know.”  Oh, it’s getting distributed!