In better news: Philosophers Against Malaria has raised more than $45,000 so far. 

Philosophers Against Malaria has been raising funds for the Against Malaria Foundation since November 28, and at the time I’m writing this, have so far collected $45,705. At a time where many of us are feeling really discouraged about the political future, it’s lovely to see such a wonderful and successful effort to make the world a little bit better.

The Against Malaria Foundation (AMF) fights malaria by distributing insecticide-treated mosquito nets. AMF has been rated a top charity by Givewell, Giving What We Can, and The Life You Can Save. The organization is widely celebrated in the Effective Altruism movement.

Delivering a net costs just $5.31. For every $3500 we raise, we can prevent one person from dying from malaria. For comparison, the UK’s National Health Service will spend up to £20,000 (over $30,000) for a single year of healthy life saved!

Malaria killed around 438,000 people in 2015. Seventy percent of these deaths are of children under five years old, making malaria one of the leading causes of child mortality in Africa. Even when non-fatal, malaria can damage children’s cognitive development.

Lower malaria rates help more children stay in school and more adults continue working, which stimulates developing economies. For every $1 spent fighting malaria, Africa’s GDP improves by at least $6.75–and by some estimates much more. Well-designed action against malaria has been shown to be hugely successful: since 2000, mortality rates have fallen by 47 percent globally and by 54 percent in the WHO African Region.

If you want to donate, head over to the fundraiser site. If you want to get your department involved, see the comments on this Daily Nous post.

The fundraiser goes until December 15th, so you still have time to participate.

CFP: Critical Philosophies of Life

Critical Philosophies of Life
March 24-25

Keynote speaker: Dr. Cynthia Willett (Emory University)

Duquesne Women in Philosophy invites philosophical papers and abstracts on the broad theme of “life.” Full papers of approximately 3000 words suitable for a 20 minute presentation will be prioritized, though long abstracts of a minimum 700 words are also welcome. Preference will be given to papers that engage with normative assumptions and traditional ways of framing the notion of ‘life’ as well as papers from perspectives in feminist, anti-racist, critical philosophies of race, disability, queer, post-colonial studies, and perspectives outside the Western tradition, such as those from Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The conference will take place March24-25 at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA.

Please send submissions prepared for blind review to dwipcontact@gmail.com by January 5th 2017.

The conference will prioritize accessibility for all. For any questions or concerns please contact us dwipcontact@gmail.com.

Notification of acceptance will be sent out by January 15th.

Possible areas include but are not limited to:

the meaning/character/history of life
the good life, living well and ways of living
philosophies of birth, death, pregnancy, illness/disease, aging/maturity
issues in bioethics
philosophies of sex, sexuality, gender, bodily difference
philosophies of biology, history of philosophy of science and medicine
biopower and biopolitics
nature, environmental, ecological, and animal philosophies
life under capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, racism, violence
eugenics, slavery, life in prison, life-without-parol
life and the law
questions from disability studies
desire, habit, space, the temporality of life
technology, art, music, beauty, justice

**The conference and roundtable discussion are generously supported by a Hypatia: a journal of feminist philosophy through a Diversity Project Grant, the Department of Philosophy, and the Women and Gender Studies Program at Duquesne University. Please see our website for details on DWiP and a list of past conferences: http://duq.edu/d-wip

Trump and Authoritarian Propaganda

There’s a really interesting new piece by Jason Stanley over at the The Stone in the New York Times on Trump and authoritarian propaganda. Excerpted below; the whole piece is here.

Trump regularly says that America’s “inner cities” are filled with Americans who are impoverished, and of African-American descent. According to Trump, these are places of unprecedented horror. In a tweet on Aug. 29, 2016, Trump wrote: “Inner-city crime is reaching record levels. African-Americans will vote for Trump because they know I will stop the slaughter going on!”

This has continued as one of the central themes in his campaign; there is supposedly an unprecedented wave of violent slaughter. In November 2015, Trump tweeted an image of the following statistics about race and murder from 2015, supposedly from a source called the “Crime Statistics Bureau of San Francisco,” which does not appear to exist. It included wildly inaccurate figures that indicated that a large majority of white people killed were being killed by black people.

In the United States, around 14 percent of the population is of African-American descent. White Americans make up around 75 percent. If 81 percent of white American citizens who were murdered in 2015 were murdered by a small minority group of American citizens with some kind of vaguely generalizable profile, it may be worth addressing in policy. However, F.B.I. statistics from 2014 tell us that 15 percent of whites are killed by their black fellow Americans, and 82 percent of white Americans are killed by their white fellow American citizens. Fact checkers of Trump’s tweet were displeased.

. . . The chief authoritarian values are law and order. In Trump’s value system, nonwhites and non-Christians are the chief threats to law and order. Trump knows that reality does not call for a value-system like his; violent crime is at almost historic lows in the United States. Trump is thundering about a crime wave of historic proportions, because he is an authoritarian using his speech to define a simple reality that legitimates his value system, leading voters to adopt it. Its strength is that it conveys his power to define reality. Its weakness is that it obviously contradicts it . . . Denouncing Trump as a liar, or describing him as merely entertaining, misses the point of authoritarian propaganda altogether. Authoritarian propagandists are attempting to convey power by defining reality. The reality they offer is very simple. It is offered with the goal of switching voters’ value systems to the authoritarian value system of the leader.

A Statement from Jason Stanley

I wanted to address the situation that has arisen from the series of articles in right-wing media outlets about me, and then me and Professor Kukla, that resulted from a private Facebook exchange being published and taken out of context, followed by a public thread that was a response to the fact that all of those messages were made public and taken out of context. I will begin by apologizing to Professor Richard Swinburne. I regret that he is involved at all, and I regret even bringing his name into the conversation in my public post.

The post of mine that was made public was not about Richard Swinburne. It was a comment, or a reply to a comment, on a private Facebook thread. The Facebook thread was about how the Swinburne episode reminded a gay colleague and friend of the harsh discrimination they had faced as a gay philosopher. I knew about what this person had experienced, and from whom. I saw that they were using Facebook to channel frustration about discrimination. So I used strong words, including expletives, to exhibit my support. But I simply was not talking about Richard Swinburne.

A screenshot of that comment, as well as other posts and comments from other philosophers, which were intended for specific audiences, were taken out of context and publicized on a blog. I faced a difficult situation, and the anger in my public post which followed was directed against those who made those comments public. I was both deeply frustrated at the violation of privacy, and worried that the others on that thread would face harsh recrimination, and felt that it was my responsibility, as a person with some power in the field, to take the heat. But I forgot that having my position at Yale makes anything I say part of the whole campus wars. For example, Rod Dreher was one of the main figures in November, 2015 who attacked our undergraduate students in very harsh terms. So that meant anything associated with me would be taken national.

For those who don’t know me, it may come as a surprise that the national discussion in right wing media has also been wounding to me, because I am sensitive to the difficulties many religious Christians face in academic settings. We live in a country, the vast majority of whose citizens are followers of one of the world’s great intellectual and moral systems, Christianity. And though the majority of philosophers in American are Christian or were raised as such, there is a significant difference between being in our intellectual community and being in America outside its walls.

I was almost always the only Jewish person in my classes growing up. In my high schools in tenth and eleventh grade, I was the first Jewish person to attend. I am very familiar with the isolation that is involved, even when there is no overt discrimination (though I grew up being asked if I had horns and such like, this was ignorance and not malice). It is woven into the tapestry of my existence what it is like to be in a minority faith among a majority. I can’t imagine what it must be like to go from a community in which one’s cultural traditions and many of its assumptions are just part of the ordinary tapestry of existence, to one in which that is considerably less so. I have tried in the departments I have been in to be very sensitive to this. And my own work, both academic and public, leaves theism in any form alone.

But this is not to say that the only issues here are the complete confusion caused by the publication of out of context private messages. I do have a dispute with those philosophers (Christian or otherwise) who irresponsibly espouse harmful theories about sexual minorities that are out of touch with the literature, current science, and the experiences of those minorities themselves. I also have another, distinct dispute with those who would violate the privacy of their friends by taking expressions of support and frustration — which were intentionally visible only to select audiences — out of context, publish them, and mislead the public as to their meaning. Anyone who thinks that is perfectly ordinary Christian behavior has a much lower opinion of Christians than I do. I also think both of these distinct disputes are ones we can have in public spaces in a respectful manner.

The last week has been very extreme for me. My family, which is the core of my existence, has been frightened. I can’t here explain everything that has happened, but it has been very ugly at times. But much worse than that is the legitimation of the very real discrimination that gay philosophers have to face on a daily basis from colleagues, from students, and from the media.

When gay philosophers try to speak up, even privately, about actual discrimination they face, they now know they risk a media storm against them. They see from my case that the student paper at their university may even add fuel to the fire.

So: do I regret that Swinburne has been sucked into this? I regret this very much. I apologize for bringing Swinburne in at all. I sincerely apologize for my error in judgment in even mentioning his name. But my central concern right now is entirely about our gay colleagues in academia who have been watching this episode in horror, rightly concerned that any complaints about discrimination they may raise, even in private spaces, will result in the kind of incredibly intense retribution that Rebecca Kukla and I have been singled out and subject to over the past week. And those concerns would be legitimate.

I need to end with the issue of anti-Semitism. On my public post, someone posted a disturbing comment about Swinburne’s death. I contemplated deleting it but then wanted to wait to see if anyone would ‘like’ it before addressing its horrors (no one did). It is hard to avoid the suspicion that the media discussion starting with the September 28th piece in The American Conservative, and then the Washington Times, is straightforwardly anti-Semitic. How did a non-story about the complexity of communication that results when screenshots from private conversations are made public, become a national story about two leftist Jewish professors and the dangers they pose?

At first, the story was solely about me. Then, the other Jewish philosopher who posted on that thread, Rebecca Kukla, was also targeted. What ensued was a terrible anti-Semitic narrative, channeling a virulent 20th century form of anti-Semitism, now present in Russia; that leftist Jews seek to use the issue of homosexuality to target the Christian faith. I hope we can, as a profession, have a respectful discussion about the two disputes I mentioned above. I responded to disrespect in kind, and I regret that this may have made it more difficult. We need to have these conversations, though, in a way that does not invite retribution against our gay colleagues, whose experiences of discrimination need to be highlighted, rather than forced ever more into the shadows. And we need to have it in a way that does not help bring in the stain of anti-Semitism.

Responding to sexual harassment in academia: punishment or pedagogy?

Eric Schliesser has an interesting discussion posted at D&I (which we linked to earlier) of the piece in the Chronicle by Brian Leiter, regarding the ethics of how we respond to sexual harassers in academia.  I think the exchange is worth reading, but that both pieces assume the wrong framework for approaching the issue.* That is, it would be more productive to think about the appropriate role of sexual harassers going forward in academia through the lens of pedagogy rather than punishment.

Leiter’s piece begins with a discussion of Colin McGinn – particularly, the question of whether or not he should be allowed to teach again. Leiter fears that disproportional punishment in response to sexual harassment in academia is trending (e.g., firing, refusal to hire); Schliesser notes that other offenses in the academic community aren’t treated under the kind of proportionality principle Leiter is advocating for (e.g., some plagiarists are shunned from the academic community; we don’t typically give students a second chance before a plagiarized paper receives an F). But, when the administration at East Carolina University vetoed the faculty’s offer of a teaching position, was this an instance of punishment? When a commentator on a blog suggests that having been fired for sexual misconduct disqualifies one for future teaching positions, are they thereby advocating for punishment of offenders?

I don’t think so. If I learn that Jane betrayed her friend John’s trust, and on that basis I decline to form a friendship with her, my failing to become friends with Jane is not a punishment. It is a negative consequence of her conduct towards John, but not all negative consequences are punishments. I wouldn’t put Bernie Madoff in charge of my finances; I wouldn’t leave my dogs with Tony Barbara; and though I’m sure she would never need it, I wouldn’t loan my car to Lindsay Lohan. I wouldn’t be punishing Lindsay Lohan – she’s just not entitled to my car, and I wouldn’t want to take the risk.

Of course, if I don’t choose to engage in a particular kind of relationship with someone on the basis of their past conduct that doesn’t entail that they will never be able to enter into such a relationship with someone else. This contrasts with the kind of case Leiter is considering where a sexual harasser cannot find another position in academia at all. But, as Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa pointed out in a comment on facebook, neither is there some general governing body handing out teaching positions: “[T]here’s a job market. No person or organization faces the question of whether [some sexual harasser] should ever be allowed to teach again. The question faced, by each of a bunch of departments, is, should we hire [this person] to teach here?” In any given instance, that will be a complicated question to answer. (If for no other reason than that the academic job market is flooded with candidates. For any one, no matter whether they’ve engaged in misconduct or not, what are the odds there isn’t a better qualified candidate out there?)

Suppose I’m wrong about all of this, though, and that there is a punitive element to the refusal to hire a sexual harasser. Even so, I think it would be more productive to think about this issue through the lens of pedagogy rather than punishment. As Leiter writes, “[s]exual harassment of students by their professors betrays the fundamental idea of a university as a place where everyone can come to learn and master an intellectual discipline, and be evaluated on their intellectual competence, rather than their sexual desirability.” (NB: with Schliesser, I suspect much sexual misconduct is not about desirability.)

Some kinds of relationships only function properly if certain preconditions are met. Friendship must be given willingly. Being a doctor requires that one have medical knowledge. Practicing as a social worker requires licensure. Rather than asking if we ought to keep those who engage in sexual misconduct on faculty so as to not send harassers out into the world for someone else to deal with as Leiter does, or asking if refusal to hire is proportionally punitive, we ought to be asking what’s pedagogically appropriate. Certainly, we have moral responsibilities – to victims and perpetrators of sexual misconduct. But examining this through the framework of pedagogy rather than punishment has the dual benefit of not privileging our responsibilities to wrong-doers over those who are wronged and keeping our guiding aim, qua educational community, centered. Are those who betray the fundamental idea of a university fit to be employed by one? If so, why? If not, what would it take for them to become so again?

I would be opposed to my department hiring McGinn, but it’s not a question of punishment. I would be opposed to my department hiring McGinn because he doesn’t seem to think he did anything wrong, and I don’t know how someone who thinks it’s appropriate to treat students in that way could be entrusted with their educations.

*There’s a lot more to say about all of these issues, but I just want to briefly note that with Schliesser, I also don’t think the Chronicle piece gets the cases quite right. For example, it reads:

On the other hand, there are cases like that of Sujit Choudry [sic], former dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, who was found to have violated the university’s sexual-harassment policy, though there was no finding that he acted with a sexual intent . . . A dean of a major law school should not be hugging his secretary on a regular basis, as Choudry [sic] did. Such a dean may not be a sexual harasser, but he is sufficiently insensitive to professional norms and legal rules to be unfit for administrative responsibilities, including responsibility for ensuring that others comply with legal rules regarding sexual harassment . . . But now Berkeley wants to fire him for the offense for which he lost his deanship and some salary already. He is now spending tens of thousands of dollars defending his right to remain as a professor, even though there has been no public allegation about misconduct in that role. In cases like this, vindictive hysteria appears to have replaced a proportionate response to the actual misconduct.

Choudhry was found not merely to have hugged his administrative assistant on a regular basis – rather, he admitted to (1) hugging her regularly, (2) kissing her on the cheek regularly, (3) touching her shoulders and arms, (4) holding her hands to his waist, and (5) not engaging in similar conduct with male colleagues or staff. Leiter is right that there was no finding that he acted with a sexual intent, but neither was there a finding that he did not. The investigation report notes that Choudhry’s defense was that he did not act with a sexual intent, but then goes on to explain why this is irrelevant to the question of whether or not he engaged in sexual harassment for the purposes of university policy (i.e., he engaged in intentional physical touching that was unwelcome, and only directed at women, consistently over a seven month period).

Law Professors on the Preponderance Standard in Title IX cases

A group of more than 90 law professors have signed on to a white paper regarding the preponderance of the evidence standard’s use in campus sexual misconduct cases. I recommend reading the entire document, but here’s a snippet:

The consistency of the 2011 DCL with civil rights legal doctrine means that, had the 2011 DCL indicated tolerance for other standards of proof in sexual violence cases, it would have approved treating sexual violence and harassment victims differently from all other victims of all other discrimination prohibited under our nation’s anti-discrimination civil rights laws, and done so without any justification for that differentiation. Because differential treatment by the government without justification is itself a form of discrimination, OCR making such an exception in a specific set of sexual harassment cases, but in no other civil rights matters under its jurisdiction, would have been incompatible with the agency’s mission to secure gender equality in education.

Further information regarding the Pogge allegtions (UPDATED)

UPDATE 6/20/2016: An “Open Letter Regarding Thomas Pogge” has been signed by over 160 academics, including most of the members of Yale University’s Department of Philosophy as well as the department chair; you can add your name to the letter by clicking on the middle tab at the top of the letter.

From the Huffington Post, regarding allegations of quid pro quo:

In her affidavit, obtained by HuffPost, Aye said she met Pogge at a conference in 2013, and began emailing with him soon after. He offered to help her career, she said, stating early on in an email, “lots of job openings cross my desk, so maybe I can help you find a place where you can be productive in the [global justice] universe.” She said she always denied his offers. Their relationship became intimate during his visits to Europe in late 2013.

But Aye said she decided in early 2014 to “warn other women” that Pogge had deceived her repeatedly, including hiding that he had been married for about 30 years.

Pogge has denied acting inappropriately with any graduate students.

Aye believed she was one Pogge’s “secret mistresses,” she wrote in her affidavit, and that some of the other women were graduate students for whom he’d written recommendations. She alleged these relationships bordered on being “quid pro quo” arrangements.

Pogge wrote in an email to HuffPost that he had written a recommendation for one of the students he became intimately involved with, but said he did so before he “had any romantic relation with her.” He said he was familiar with her academic work because he had taught her in the summer of 2010.

And regarding Columbia:

Yale recruited Pogge away from Columbia in 2007. When Pogge faced university charges of sexually harassing Lopez Aguilar at Yale in 2011, he told the school investigator that Yale was fully aware of the allegations against him at Columbia, according to BuzzFeed. Yale hired him anyway. 

Aye said Pogge had told her a different story about what happened at Columbia.

“He said that when he was at Columbia, he had a stalker who was crazy and eventually she entrapped him and performed oral sex on him, but the woman was crazy,” she said. “Harassment never even came up, it was just him sharing a story about crazy women he’s encountered in his life.”

Pogge disputed part of that claim in an email to HuffPost: “I cannot recall ever telling her that I was stalked by anyone (nor was I in fact stalked by anyone — at Columbia or elsewhere).”

Christia Mercer, who has taught philosophy at Columbia since 1991, said she was aware of allegations that Pogge had behaved inappropriately with a student at the school. Mercer said she warned professors at the University of Oslo in Norway, where both she and Pogge held academic positions, about the claims against him after she read the Thought Catalog essay in 2014. Pogge was reappointed later that academic year, and still holds a position with the university.

#PulseOrlandoSyllabus

Or, syllabi. I haven’t posted anything about Orlando here, because everything I have to say feels trite and inadequate — but, I do want to share this.

A crowd sourced document of relevant materials (scholarly and popular) regarding context, history, and so on, compiled mostly by librarians and educators, here.

And another, from the GSU Library, here.