“Diversifying philosophy”

The title of this post is my working title for the CSW (APA’s Committee on the Status of Women) diversity conference, which will be held jointly with a Hypatia conference. It will happen at the of May, 2015. I’m the program chair.

I have some ideas to put before a so-far-exiguous program committee, and they will also have ideas. But for now I’d really like to hear what you (my audience) think are important topics.

Let me mention two that I have begun to think about.

(1). The canon(s). In a number of the winter APA conference sessions speakers and the audiences discussed the ‘required reading’ that publishable papers too often have to cover. I think that the canon so understood often acts in a very exclusionary way, and so it may be important to discuss. One thing a discussion on this topic could look at is in effect advice for early scholars. How, for example, could modest, conservative woman-relevant topics be introduced? Still under the advice heading, we could look for areas that have already opened up a bit, or even a lot. Another topic here would be how can we get referees for conferences, journals, book publishers to consider less canon focused ideas. I.e., new creative stuff. Well, of course they already do, but there are … Well, maybe we should discuss this.

(2). The status of women. One topic might be on women doing philosophy outside the standard tt-tenured structures: what can the APA do? Another might be on surviving a cold climate, or the relative invisibility of women in the profession. Another might also be on the special trials of women of color.

So please let me know what more you think are vital topics. Either add to the sub-topics above or suggest new questions.

There are very recent events that have created very inflammatory discussions. So for now let us avoid the following:
– site visits
– injustices to male faculty as illustrated by recent events
– the demerits of feminist thought, the CSW, this blog, me and certain other bloggers.

We will resist derailing.

Do universities overreact to sexual harassment claims?

The popular perception that they do remains, despite regular debunking. (See here for one example of such debunking.) But now the philosophical world has before it a case in which a university actually made a ruling that:

Ludlow drank with the underage student in Chicago in February 2012, and “engaged in unwelcome and inappropriate sexual advances” by rubbing her back and kissing her.

Northwestern found that the student had been drunk and woke up the next morning in Ludlow’s bed with the professor’s arms wrapped around her.

That’s pretty serious stuff– the kissing was, according to the finding, unwelcome. And, according to the finding, she then woke up in his bed with his arms around her. This isn’t an inappropriate comment, or possibly-accidental touch. Nor is it, according to the finding, mutually-entered-into but worrying due to the power dynamics. Unwelcome kissing is serious, and waking up in bed with someone after unwelcome kissing is also serious. (It’s also not a case where the student alleged unwelcome kissing and the university did not make a finding of unwelcome kissing. The university takes this to have happened.)

So what did the university do after it decided this rather serious behaviour had occurred?

Besides freezing his pay for one year and revoking [an] endowed position, court records show the university told Ludlow to avoid one-on-one social contact with undergraduates, directed him not to have romantic relationships with “any Northwestern student in the future,” told him not to give alcohol to underage students and required him to complete an individualized “sensitivity/harassment-prevention training” program.

It’s really pretty hard to imagine a milder punishment.

This is, of course, just one example to count against the myth of overreacting to sexual harassment claims. But it’s a vivid one.