Who should take the notes?

Yesterday, I posted the following note on my Facebook page. It has generated considerable enthusiasm, much more than I anticipated for a modest bit of administrative advice. Since folks seem to find the advice useful, I am posting it here too, for a broader readership.

Earlier this week, I told a bunch of female colleagues that, for many of the meetings I attend, I don’t bring paper/pencil because, too often, a woman with writing tools is seen as the best candidate to be recorder for the meeting. The colleagues — especially the more junior ones — were very excited about this tactic, and many resolved to start doing the same.

Today, I was at a consultation at which each table was provided with a note pad and pens and asked to assign a recorder for the table. I was the only woman (and the most junior person, from the puniest department) at the table. I told the table that, on principle, I do not take notes when I am the only woman in a group, and that one of them would therefore have to take notes. After some kerfufflement, the most senior person at the table (a quite senior admin) took the notes for the table. I feel good about this result.

Friends, let me recommend that when a note-taker is needed, you try to identify the person at the table whose perspective is least likely to be overlooked, and have them take notes. That way, those (women, racialized people, junior folks, etc.) whose perspective is most likely to be overlooked can put all of their energies into sharing their perspective rather than recording the alpha dogs’ perspectives. If you are the alpha dog, or think that you might be, consider volunteering to be the note-taker so that others’ voices can emerge. This saves the more junior/marginalized folks from the sometimes scary task of refusing to be recorder.

Postscript: A couple of further notes in response to comments folks made under my Facebook post.

  1. Note-takers are important. We shouldn’t diminish the important work that careful recorders do, nor neglect the power that a recorder can have to influence what goes on record. For some folks, in some contexts, recording may well be a better, more powerful, way for them to contribute than talking.
  2. Having said that, it is quite likely that for some folks — women in particular — regarding recording as more powerful than speaking is an adaptive preference. That is, if the context isn’t conducive to their full participation in a discussion, then recording — and valuing recording — may be a way to feel empowered rather than disempowered in an otherwise disempowering situation.
  3. The aptness of the above advice varies by context and purpose. Junior folks can learn a lot from senior folks if the former record what the latter are saying, and in some contexts that’s desirable. After all, typically students take notes while profs explain stuff. In such a case, the work of recording helps the junior person to learn. However, in a meeting intended to survey a range of perspectives — as opposed to a context in which expert knowledge is being passed on — it makes sense for someone whose perspective is over-represented to record.
  4. The distinction in #3 between contexts in which a range of views is sought and those in which expertise is transmitted is a fuzzy one. As standpoint theorists, such as Sandra Harding, have been telling us for decades, a crucial but oft-neglected question in inquiry is who gets to count as an expert and why.

Freedman on Galloway, Boyden and Implicit Misogyny

In recent months, the Canadian literary and academic worlds have been rocked by sexual harassment allegations against former UBC Creative Writing Program Chair Steven Galloway. In brief, UBC fired Galloway, whereupon CanLit golden boy Joseph Boyden published an open letter to UBC  deploring what he saw as a breach of due process in the case. The letter was signed by 88 luminaries of Canadian literature (including, most notably, feminist author Margaret Atwood). A Twitter war ensued.

As Canadian feminist philosopher Karyn Freedman observes, the complainants in the case have been effaced from the public discussion.

Today is Canada’s s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women — a day, it bears observing that marks the anniversary of the so-called Montréal Massacre, in which 14 women Engineering and Science students were murdered for being women. To mark the day, Freedman has published a piece on HuffPo Canada, decrying the implicit misogyny that led to the effacement of Galloway’s accusers, and urging Boyden and his fellow signatories to retract the letter.

You can read Freedman’s post here.

National boycott and some small things philosophers can do to help

Yesterday, Shaun King at the New York Daily News announced a national boycott against “police brutality, racial violence and systemic injustice in America.” The boycott will start December 5, the anniversary of the 1955 start of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

Here are some of the key features of the planned boycott, from the King article linked above:

1. We will not be releasing the names of the cities, states, businesses, and institutions that we will be boycotting until Dec. 5, 2016. Between now and then, we hope that cities and states around the country will begin to enact emergency legislation and policies to prevent police brutality and racial violence. Furthermore, we do not want any potential institutions to somehow undermine our efforts.

2. We can tell you this, our boycott will be national. That means we will be boycotting:

  • Entire cities and states much like what you see being done in North Carolina right now over the anti-LGBT House Bill 2.
  • Particular brands and corporations who partner with and profit from systemic oppression.
  • Particular brands and corporations headquartered in cities and states notorious for police brutality and racial violence, which say and do little to nothing about it.
  • Particular institutions, including banks, which fund, underwrite, inform, train or otherwise support systemic oppression and brutality.

8. We do expect this boycott to last for months, or even years, not days or weeks.

It’s worth reading the whole article to learn about the background and the other details. So, here it is again.

For those of us who intend to support the boycott, some planning is in order. We won’t know which particular cities/companies/institutions are subject to boycott until the day is upon us. But we can make some reasonable conjectures.

Here are a couple of small things philosophers can do to show solidarity with the movement. It is highly plausible that Baltimore will be among the boycotted cities. The 2017 Eastern APA will be held in Baltimore in early January. Philosophers who are in a position to do so may wish to hold off on pre-registering for the APA and purchasing airline tickets to Baltimore until we know whether or not Baltimore is subject to boycott. And, if Baltimore is targeted, those philosophers who are able to skip the meeting should seriously consider doing so. Further, philosophers, especially APA members, should consider writing to the APA to inform the Association that they will be joining in the boycott and hence will miss the Baltimore meeting if Baltimore is boycotted. They should therefore urge the Association to develop both an official position and a clear plan in case Baltimore is boycotted. Finally, we should speak with our colleagues in other disciplines and urge them to take similar tacks with their professional associations, who will similarly have meetings planned in cities that are likely to be boycotted.

(h/t SE for the links)

Canadian domestic violence survivor goes public after replacement judge declares mistrial

Yesterday, Canadian public broadcaster the CBC published the story of Isabelle Raycroft, Canada’s latest high-profile victim of intimate partner violence.

Here’s the tl;dr: the trial judge wrote a decision convicting Raycroft’s husband of four counts of assault against her, then got sick and couldn’t deliver the verdict. A replacement judge was appointed to read the verdict and determine the sentence. Before sentencing, a delegation of “old boys” from the rural Ontario community in which the Raycrofts reside appeared before the court to attest to the good character of the convict. Having heard this testimony (but not the evidence that was presented at trial), the replacement judge declared a mistrial. The devastated complainant decided that the public needed to know what she’d gone through. She went to court to have the publication ban on the case waived, and then she went to the CBC.

The story is frustrating, astonishing and riveting, and provides yet more evidence (as if it were needed) that when it comes to sexual violence, the law is an ass. Read it here.

Canadian uni prez doesn’t even make it to Day 1 of her term — gender troubles?

Today, September 1, should have been the first day on the job as Brock University president for Wendy Cukier. However, on Monday, the Canadian university dropped a bombshell — Brock and Cukier had mutually decided that she would not take up the position. So far, both sides are mum on the reasons for a move with huge costs (as they must have known) for both Brock’s and Cukier’s reputations — not to mention the costs of running another presidential search. But much of the speculation, both in the Canadian post-secondary scene and in the media, has it that the break-up is evidence of gender problems at Brock.

Here’s Globe and Mail reporter Simona Chiose’s take on the story. Predictably, an overwhelming number of contributors to the comment thread below that story are hostile to speculation that Cukier’s gender played into the shocking breakdown of her relationship with Brock.

However, there is good reason to think that the Canadian post-secondary education sector (like PSE sectors in many other countries) is not only less welcoming of women presidents but also less good at retaining them than their male counterparts when troubles emerge. Earlier this year, a group of mostly-male Canadian uni presidents agreed that the lack of senior women leaders at Canadian universities is an urgent problem.  For decades, the percentage of Canadian university presidents who are women has remained unchanged at less than 20%. Despite this, Cukier is one of a series of high profile premature departures by women university presidents in recent recollection. Put simply, we (in Canadian PSE) are bad at hiring women presidents, but we’re pretty good at letting them go.

On Airspace and the privilege of owning nothing

There’s a brilliant new post today on feminist philosopher Patricia Marino’s always excellent blog, The Kramer is Now.

In the post, Marino contemplates so-called “Airspace” (“that space of modern capitalist nowhere: the coffee shop, office, or shared work space that all have the same comfort symbols: fast wifi, innocuous background music, wood tables, exposed brick, minimalist furniture”) and the alleged anti-materialism of owning less stuff.

Marino observes that surviving without owning things requires a level of wealth out of reach to most folks:

“Own nothing” is always treated as some kind of anti-materialism, but in fact it’s only the most ultra privileged, and usually male, people who can live with no objects.

Reflecting on a recent profile of James Altucher, who claims to own fifteen things, Marino muses

Does he have children? Did the reporter ask? If he does, how does he make food for them? Where are their toys? As we’ve noted before, if you’re reading about “Mister Interesting,” somehow the whole fatherhood thing never comes up. If “Ms. Interesting” was running around being the “Oprah of the internet” and owning fifteen objects — wouldn’t the very first question be “OMG, how do you take care of your children?!”

Check out the rest of the post, and the rest of Marino’s excellent blog, here.

$2905 raise for women profs at Waterloo

On Thursday, University of Waterloo (Canada) – my university – made the national news when it announced that it was giving a $2905 raise to every woman faculty member who had been employed by the University by April 30, 2015. The reason for the raise was the discovery of a campus-wide salary anomaly – on average, women faculty members make $2905 less per year than men in their cohort.

You can read what the press said about it here and here (and in a bunch of other places if you care to Google them).

The anomaly was discovered by a university working group struck in 2015 and charged with the following:

  • to investigate all cases where faculty salary inequities, including but not limited to gender-based inequities, may exist and recommend how such cases should be resolved using the Faculties’ existing anomaly funds;
  • to review the processes by which salary anomalies are currently identified and resolved in each Faculty;
  • to establish a standardized university-wide process for the detection and resolution of all faculty salary anomalies that may arise in future, wherever they may occur.

Here’s the report of the working group, and here’s a useful FAQ.

This is a good news/bad news story.

The good news:

  • The working group was struck because, in its last round of salary negotations, the faculty association asked for it. Yay! Unions work!
  • When the faculty association asked for the working group to be struck, the university agreed, with little or no resistance. Yay! Lots of university administrators are great!
  • When the working group discovered the anomaly – the correction to which would far outstrip the individual deans’ salary anomaly budgets – Waterloo VP Academic and Provost Ian Orchard volunteered without prodding to use his discretionary budget to make the adjustment right away because it’s the right thing to do. Yay! Lots of university administrators are great (redux)!
  • The working group recommended, and the senior administration has already agreed, that similar reviews occur every five years to catch any future anomalies and fix them as soon as possible if they emerge. Yay! We can learn from the past and try to do better!

Here’s some of the bad news:

  • Some women faculty think they should get back-pay too, and are disappointed that they won’t.
  • Some women hired since April 30, 2015 are frustrated that they are not included in the raise.
  • Lots of folks are frustrated that the working group just did statistical analysis without digging in to investigate the causes of any inequities.
  • And of course, many of the 326 women on campus who will receive the raise are disappointed (but probably not very surprised) to learn that they have been underpaid relative to their male colleagues.
  • The review only concerned faculty salaries; so we don’t know whether staff members (administrative support staff, food services staff, etc., etc.) are subject to a similar anomaly.

Understanding why the working group didn’t look at underlying causes helps to make sense of why it didn’t recommend back pay or redress for newer hires. Put simply, this review was a first step. It was pure statistical work to establish whether a gap exists. It was not a pay equity review per se. Indeed, while the working group was charged with checking for gendered anomalies, it was also responsible for finding individual anomalies (It found 59 individual anomalies, and another 12 cases that require further investigation by the relevant deans.). What the committee had to work with was six years of salary, demographic and annual review score data for a period ending April 30, 2015. Since the working group did not have the mandate or the expertise to investigate causes of any (then-hypothetical) gendered pay gap, it did not produce any evidential basis for back pay or for pay adjustments for faculty whose salaries were not (by reason of their start date) included in the data. (Of course, this doesn’t make the news less disappointing to women who started after April 30, 2015, some of whom by virtue of their lack of seniority are among the lowest paid faculty at the university.)

But now that we have statistically significant evidence of a gendered pay gap at Waterloo, the next step is to assemble the right team to begin to dig in and investigate causes. What are those causes likely to be? The best guess so far is that a confluence of small things add up to the nearly $3000 per faculty member gap the committee discovered. A starting pay of $500 less doesn’t take long to become a $3000 gap. Unpaid leaves of various kinds can chip away at one’s pay increases. And, due to a big shift in data management at Waterloo six years ago, we don’t have any information about faculty members’ pre-2009 salary and merit score trajectories. Surprisingly, merit scores seem to have been more or less fairly allocated (across gender, at least) for the period covered by the study. The working group found no statistically significant differences in merit scores for men and women at any rank.

So, what are the next steps?

At Waterloo, the plan is to keep doing anomaly investigations (and, if necessary, corrections) every five years, and to strike a separate working group to investigate causes. The end goal is to be in the enviable position of University of Windsor, which yesterday announced that for the first time it has no gendered wage gap.

A separate challenge, at Waterloo and elsewhere, will be to undertake similar work to ensure that non-faculty employees are also paid fairly. Most of the recent high profile cases of Canadian universities addressing gendered wage gaps have focused only on faculty wages. There is good reason to expect that the same small, subtle, unconscious forces that likely produced the Waterloo wage gap are at play among staff as well as faculty. Indeed, faculty women arguably benefit from the fact that the job of professor is typically marked as masculine whereas support staff often work jobs marked as feminine, and are hence comparatively poorly compensated. And, of course, faculty members have a lot more clout at universities and in the media than most staff members do. So it’s harder for the latter to get a hearing. It is especially good news then that in a television interview yesterday, University of Waterloo President Feridun Hamdullahpur said that if the staff association asks for a similar review, they will get one.

Another big challenge relevant to many of our readers is that Waterloo’s willingness to look for and then correct a gendered pay gap is extremely rare. While stories like this one are not unheard-of at Canadian universities, there seems to be much less willingness (or capacity?) in, for instance, the U.S. college and university sector to address the pay gap. There is probably even less willingness outside of the post-secondary sector.

One lesson that folks in other places might take away from the Waterloo experience is the role that the faculty association played. Getting the university to enshrine the working group in our last faculty contract was instrumental in producing this week’s result. If you are lucky enough to work in a union workplace (or something unionesque, as we have at Waterloo), lobby your union to get the wage gap on the agenda for your next round of contract negotiations.

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.