Synthese: Letter on Special Issues

From the Editors of Synthese:

We have concluded our investigation of the reasons a special-issue article of Synthese, which caused offense to people in the community, was published without our approval. We have also concluded our deliberations on the future of special issues in Synthese. Before sharing the results with you, we would like to affirm, once again, our commitment to feminist and LGBT values, our responsibility for every article published or accepted for publication in Synthese during our tenure, and our dedication to high professional and humanistic standards in our editorial work.

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Philosophers on the gap between sexual assault law and morality

Philosophers weigh in at Quartz on the misalignment between sexual assault law and morality. Here’s Tim Kenyon (Waterloo):

“When you get a legal system that’s pathological in some sense, either because it’s unfair to people or it’s incomplete or re-victimizes victims, it’s particularly foreseeable that the law and the morality are going to come apart,” he says. “You’re going to see people looking for alternative ways to find legal or extra-legal remedies.”

Check out the whole article here.

Another Pogge story

From Delia Graff Fara, at Leiter.

I had a mildly unpleasant experience with Pogge when I was a senior undergraduate at Harvard and he was a visiting professor who stayed in my “house”, Harvard’s equivalent to residential colleges at Princeton and Yale. (I lived in Cabot House.)

In brief, I was having a meeting with Pogge during and after dinner in our dining hall to talk about Rawls and Rousseau, the subjects of my senior thesis.  He kept me talking for longer than I felt comfortable with.  It was night and the dining hall had long since emptied out.  I finally ended the meeting when he started rubbing my thigh, by just saying that it was late and that I needed to leave.


Kathleen Stock on Objectification

A small sample from her post:

So far, we have the following answers to our original questions: Broadly speaking, objectification involves treating another person in ways that resemble the way we treat inanimate objects (treating them as an instrument, or as lacking in autonomy, or as inert, or as fungible, and so on). Sometimes these behaviours occur in the context of actual sex, or are simply eroticized by those involved, and in both those contexts, it makes sense to call them forms of ‘sexual objectification’. As a matter of contingent cultural context, forms of objectification are mostly extended towards women rather than men, but they don’t have to be. Equally contingently, objectification is usually harmful to its recipients, but it doesn’t have to be; much depends on context (the intentions of those involved and/or the consequences).

We have yet to say much about the many contingent contexts in which objectification, thus understood, obviously is harmful, especially to women. We have also yet to say anything about how photos can objectify. I think we can illuminate both of these questions by speculatively positing a causal mechanism that might lie behind a lot of the forms of objectifying behaviour identified by Nussbaum and Langton. This mechanism in question is what I call ‘mind-insensitive seeing’ (or more precisely, ‘seeing-as’, though this can be ignored for present purposes).

Read the whole thing!

Pogge, ‘Remarkable’ Conduct, and Greedy Women

Others have already remarked on parts of Pogge’s response to the recent allegations outlined at BuzzFeed (with additional information at Huffington Post), e.g., here, here, and here. Daily Nous reported that the response had been updated with email correspondence, so today I read through it. Two themes in particular stuck out.  First, the “remarkable” nature of Lopez Aguilar’s showing up at Yale for the purportedly fake appointment, and second, the (nearly explicit) insinuations that the allegations against him are coming from greedy women looking to profit. After reading the correspondence Pogge has provided, Lopez Aguilar’s conduct not only fails to be remarkable — Pogge’s appears even more so. And while references to greedy women may play well to sexist stereotypes, the trope is not borne out in the evidence we’ve been given.

From Pogge’s reponse:

“There are other familiar phenomena that can explain false allegations: we know of law firms going after rich institutions for the sake of winning large financial settlements, which can often be obtained through the extreme embarrassment of a media frenzy even without court proceedings in which the evidence could be carefully and critically examined. And we know that false charges and rumors can be highly effective weapons in the intensely competitive worlds of academia and university politics . . . I would welcome the opportunity to challenge her allegations in a proper judicial forum. But I fear that such talk of legal action is no more than a cover for legally extorting a financial settlement . . . On 30 August 2010, Lopez Aguilar presented herself with my fake job offer letter at Yale. This was remarkable for four reasons. First, she had never accepted the position by signing and returning the offer letter as the text of this letter clearly prescribed. Second, she showed up for work two days before the starting date specified in the offer letter, just before I would return from Latin America as she well knew. Third, she had a concurrent full-time job at Brookings Institute and thus was not available for a second full-time job. Fourth, she obviously knew that she had asked for this letter to secure an apartment lease and had offered to ‘rip it to shred’ (21 July 2010) after it had served that purpose. On the basis of Lopez Aguilar’s conduct and subsequent communications, I inferred that her plan was to force me into paying her a second full-time salary for the 2010-11 year. My alternative to somehow finding the money to pay her was to confess to Yale that I had provided her with a fake offer letter.”

I’m going to reproduce portions of the email exchanges here, but the full text of Pogge’s response and the correspondence is available here.

Regarding Lopez Aguilar appearing at Yale, when Pogge alleges she knew full well that she was not actually employed by him, in an email sent to both Pogge and Lopez Aguilar on August 29 (from page 20 of the PDF), someone (I don’t know who; the sender’s name is redacted) writes:

“Fernanda, [redacted] usually gets in around 10. I usually get in around 9. Let us know when you plan to come. If you’ve gotten your ID card authorized for 230 Prospect, then you can get in the front door. You would do that either at the ID place on Whitney, or at the MacMillan Center. If not, you should call me or [redacted], and we’ll come down and let you in. My cell is [redacted]. Looking forward to meeting you!”

Lopez Aguilar responded that day to both Pogge and the sender,

“Also [redacted], I was wondering if you happened to know whether I should go to one place first, either the ID place on Whitney or MacMillan Center, in my quest for building access tomorrow. Do you know if my name is already listed as qualifying for access approval?”

If Lopez Aguilar’s appointment was never genuine, why, exactly, is she being advised on how to show up for work? Moreover, what’s remarkable about showing up in advance of one’s start date to get her ID card authorized, if that’s what you’ve been instructed to do?

On August 30, Pogge wrote:

“You got me into a huge amount of trouble Fernanda, as I am not authorized to give out jobs to people on my own. I sent you that letter, as drafted by you, strictly for the Tafts Apartment because, so you said at the time, you could not get a letter from Brookings fast enough to secure the apartment you wanted. This was strictly as a favor to you so you could get this apartment. . . I am just amazed. You manage to destroy in an hour as much as I manage to build in months. For what? To get into the building with your own card on Tuesday?”

In a reply dated August 31, 2010, Lopez Aguilar wrote,

“I can swear to you, honest to everything that I hold dear, that I do not understand this sorry state of affairs. . . You have trivialized me and my actions Monday, under the false claim that I ‘just wanted to get into the building with my own card.’ No! I was instructed to report to MacMillan as per [redacted] request (which you read), and after I had asked if you or anyone else knew about my status/if I had permission to obtain access, to no avail. Once there, I tried to prove that I was at Yale legitimately, and not utterly delusional. I showed [redacted] the letter of employment I drafted for the Taft because I honestly believed that you would be employing me; and had you told me that my presence at Yale was to be clandestine, I would have never, ever done so. I would have asked you why, certainly, but I would not have shown them the letter. I only used it to prove that you and I had been in correspondence about my working at the Global Justice Program.

And yes, I sincerely thought you would be employing me, by way of a monthly stipend. I thought the only thing that was indeterminate was the monthly amount, which is why I had specified that this document would be worthless in September, when we would determine an amount that you thought more appropriate.”

In an email dated September 3, 2010, Pogge confirmed that there was nothing wrong with her showing up, working on campus, or asking about access, but rather it was showing someone the offer written for the purposes of securing an apartment that was unappreciated. Which is to say, the very email correspondence Pogge has provided the public seems to undercut each of the reasons we are meant to find Lopez Aguilar’s conduct “remarkable.” According to the correspondence, she didn’t sign and return the letter because she did not believe that the stipend amount offered in it was definite.  She showed up before the start date because she had been instructed to arrange building access for herself. Whether or not she had another position, Pogge himself seemed to be expecting her to work with his program at Yale, and moreover, expected her on or around the letter’s start date.

Regarding the notion that the alleged victims are after him, or Yale, for money, and always have been, on page 24, from an email dated September 6, 2010, Lopez Aguilar writes that she would like to be paid for the work she did for ASAP (“at whatever price you think fair, although, as I have already made clear to you – my estimates (of time, energy spent) place that assignments work value at $2,000), but that she will continue her work for the Global Justice Program without pay. She requested that she be granted the appropriate unpaid status so as to obtain access to campus, and particularly the building she would be working in. Again, on September 7, she reiterates that from this point onward, she would prefer not to be compensated for her work with GJP, but she that intends to serve as a volunteer throughout the year. Pogge replied both that he does not want the Global Justice Program to receive further help from her, and moreover (in an email dated September 7), the sort of unpaid status that would allow her access to the building and campus does not exist (which, in turn, raises questions about his account that she was not meant to be paid).

I find it perplexing that Pogge inferred “her plan was to force [him] into paying her a second full-time salary for the 2010-11 year” when in the correspondence he’s provided, she explicitly says multiple times after their dispute that she does not want to be paid for work with the GJP going forward, and yet she is still willing to do said work.

More generally, if she were after financial gain, going to the media before having filed suit in court would be an irrational thing to do, as it is keeping a university’s name out of embarrassing media in the first place that would typically make for the best leverage in terms of a settlement. Complaints filed with the Department of Education do not result in financial settlements for victims like many lawsuits do, and so at least with respect to that legal action, a financial motivation makes no sense (indeed, having not yet filed such a complaint, again, would make for better leverage if one were merely seeking financial gain).  And, of course, none of that is to mention that six years is quite a long time, and a significant amount of energy, to spend pursuing a settlement. If one were really after easy money, there are better uses of one’s time.

Finally, with respect to the claim “that false charges and rumors can be highly effective weapons in the intensely competitive worlds of academia and university politics,” it is worth remarking on that the one woman who was willing to identify herself publicly is the same woman who has left academia. This isn’t surprising. Indeed, I am sure that Pogge is quite familiar with the difference power, politics, and dependence can make. And while in some ways, I appreciate that he acknowledges that there is generally a high price to pay for reporting harassment, I am also sure that he is familiar with how liberal rhetoric can be used to distract from the persistent inequalities of the status quo. In fact, I think he wrote the book.

UPDATE: The link to the response doesn’t seem to be working right now. A copy of the response and appended correspondence is here.