Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death and disease, everyone seems to say. How about two and three? How far can we go in banning?
The University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) will stop hiring people who use nicotine at its Pennsylvania locations beginning July 1 .
The ban will not apply to the crop of residents who begin this summer, but will be in force for applicants for 2014 residency slots. Last year, there were 1,975 full-time faculty, 769 medical students, 775 PhD students, 1,135 residents and fellows, and 789 post-doctoral candidates working in the nearly 18,000-employee health system.
Over at New APPS, there’s a new post by Anthonie Meijers about the situation for women in philosophy departments in the Netherlands, what one department is doing about it, and what still needs to happen. Check it out.
The story about the charlatan “signed language interpreter” at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service raises awareness about a problem that’s received little attention in mainstream media. This is the problem of signed language interpreter quality control. This is a huge issue in many deaf communities, but I want to focus on the version of the problem that comes up for deaf academics, including deaf philosophers.
Highly professional signed language interpreters follow professional codes of ethics tenets stating interpreters should not accept assignments they aren’t qualified for.
From what I’ve been able to determine, the man who waved his hands around at Mandela’s service was not a signed language interpreter at all, but merely trying to pass as one. That’s an extreme version of the problem of ‘Bad Fit to the Assignment’.
The more common version of the ‘Bad Fit to the Assignment’ problem encountered by deaf academics is the interpreter who accepts an assignment for which she is not qualified.
Sometimes this happens by accident – perhaps vital information about the assignment was not supplied to the interpreter when she made the decision to accept the assignment. Sometimes this happens by hubris – I’ve seen more than a few cocky interpreters who think they can handle anything melt down during philosophy colloquia, both during the reading of the paper and the Q&A. Sometimes this happens because the person handling the request for interpreter accommodations makes mistakes or bad decisions.
When a deaf academic decides to attend an academic event outside of her home community, the process goes something like this.
- See if the conference/workshop/annual meeting registration form lists a contact person for disability accommodations.
- If there is no conference/workshop/annual meeting contact person on the registration form or conference website, expect to invest some hours identifying this person. Seasoned academics with disabilities will recognize this as the point when one mentally allocates a portion of one’s free time to the ‘job’ of being disabled.
- After the contact person is identified, make the request for accommodations, providing as much detail as possible. E.g. if I’m requesting an interpreter for a conference in London, I make a special point of emphasizing that I will need an interpreter for American Sign Language (ASL) (BSL) –English not British Sign Language-English. (ASL and BSL are two completely different sign languages, they use different alphabets, and don’t even come from the same language family!). The deaf academic should also inform the contact person that she expects to be involved in the process of identifying and vetting the signed language interpreter.
Once the request gets underway, this is where things fall apart.
How to avoid this?
Here’s what you can do as a conference/workshop/annual meeting/colloquium organizer to make a better experience for everyone.
- First, involve the deaf person. In particular, deaf academics often have networks of interpreters and other deaf academics who are familiar with the local pool of interpreters and who is qualified to interpret high register academic discourse. Do not brush off the deaf person’s offer of assistance by telling her that you or your university will handle this yourself — even if you happen to be fluent in the local community signed language. Ask us what we need and communicate with us about possible constraints (not just money, but local resources). Odds are good that we’ve encountered similar problems before and may have some solutions.
- Don’t try to save money by doing the legwork yourself, e.g. contacting your niece’s friend who interprets at her church every Sunday. Even if the niece’s friend is certified through say, the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID is a US American professional organization for signed language interpreters), she may still not have the qualifications and skills necessary to interpret the assignment. Interpreting philosophy is both demanding and difficult. Many topnotch interpreters won’t take on this kind of highly specialized assignment for fear their skills may not be up to the task.
- Trust the deaf academic’s assessment. If the deaf academic turns down an interpreter, do not ignore this and substitute your own judgment regarding whether or not the interpreter is suitable for the assignment. This holds even if say, your home university tries to foist a specific interpreter on the deaf academic. Interpreters are NOT fungible. There may be reasons beyond skill level for rejecting an interpreter – sometimes it is a matter of concerns about confidentiality, sometimes there are reasons of gender preference, sometimes there are concerns about the interpreter’s professionalism.
Last but not least: a reminder, followed by a coda*:
- Deaf and hard of hearing people have long been excluded from things that concern us – witness the frequency at which we see/hear the phrases “Never mind”, “I’ll tell you later” and “It’s not important”. This pattern also gets extended to our accessibility accommodations. Our expertise is often dismissed (implicit bias, anyone?) even when we are the best person on the planet to make such judgments. (As a personal aside, my professional judgment has been dismissed out of hand (ahem) – and I’ve created much of the ASL philosophical lexicon currently in use.)
- If you want to be an ally to deaf academics, recognize us as experts in not just our academic discipline, but in our own accessibility accommodations.
*Insider joke for deafies.
This ad actually does a pretty nice job of summing up in a minute the power and persuasion of some of the current sexist stereotypes floating around our culture.
However, in an expected non-twist (it being a commercial), the video ends with the advice that, in order to avoid these double standards, one should just buy the right shampoo.
I find it extra amusing (and bemusing) that the ad can’t even demonstrate the efficacy of its own advice. The woman at the very end supposedly has beaten the “show off” stereotype with her shiny hair, but…there’s nothing in the ad showing that to be the case. The word “show off” has miraculously melted from the sidewalk beneath her feet, but the suggestion is still in our heads. I found myself still easily fitting the woman under the heading of “show off.” The ad created no cognitive dissonance that might allow one to undermine the force of these stereotypes.
So really, this commercial is a great showcase for why individual willpower/gusto/innovation sometimes just can’t beat a cultural stereotype. It doesn’t matter how great your hair looks. In fact, the better it looks, the more of a show-off you may seem.
I find it fascinating when people can so brilliantly articulate one piece of a puzzle and then immediately fail so hard at framing the adjacent pieces.
(See also: anyone who has moved you to tears with their articulation of one form of oppression to only turn around and spout tone-deaf nonsense about the others.)
The debate about which of the non-humans should be considered persons is described here in the NY Times. Lori Gruen is featured, and does a terrific job.
Do see Lori’s moving website, which is keeping track of the last 1000 chimps who are serving our interests. Http://last1000chimps.com