Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Pogge, ‘Remarkable’ Conduct, and Greedy Women May 24, 2016

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.

 

More on Pogge: Links May 23, 2016

Filed under: academia,sexual harassment — jennysaul @ 8:48 am

An excellent discussion of the way that the “presumption of innocence” is used in internet discussions, by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa here.

The admonition not to pass judgement about the allegations is simply the admonition to ignore them. “Don’t believe anything unless it’s been proven in a court of law.” But this is just a ludicrous epistemic standard. Do you care whether powerful men in academic philosophy are using their stature to coerce students into compromising sexual situations? Then you should be interested in credible testimony to the effect that this one has been. Don’t be tempted by the fallacious inference from it hasn’t been proven in court to you have no way to tell whether it’s true.

Eric Schliesser notices the strangeness of Pogge’s invocation of lie detector tests here.

I was baffled to read the quoted sentence in Thomas Pogge’s Response to the Allegations (see here) My gut reaction was, “if a mutually agreeable experts can be found, such an expert would be a fraudster.” It is widely known that Polygraph testing is a pseudo-science.

Philosophy Goes Pop on testimonial injustice in discussions of the case here.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. When Bill Cosby was accused of rape by 58 women, a surprising number of people leapt to his defense, delegitimizing the women’s claims altogether as hearsay. We are consistently taught to view women as liars, starting with the stereotype that women are gossips who believe whatever they are told. This stereotype pervades depictions of women who claim to have been assaulted or harassed. In fact, one police unit even called their sexual assault division the ‘Lying Bitches Unit.’ There is a tendency to believe that women are lying about sexual harassment and assault, and to find alternative explanations that exonerate the perpetrators.

Huffington Post here.

Pogge’s response, here.

Buzzfeed, discussing Pogge’s response, here.

If you’re looking for places with discussions of Pogge (including, sadly, a lot of scepticism about victims’ testimony) there are two posts up at Daily Nous, here  and here.

Here, we’d welcome discussion from those grappling with how to improve our profession.   Those who want to undermine victims’ credibility can head somewhere else.  We’ll be confining ourselves to useful discussion.

 

Adjuncting in Philosophy May 19, 2016

Filed under: academia,Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 6:50 am

A powerful post at the APA Blog, demonstrating clearly why reliance on adjuncts is terrible for both adjuncts and their students.

I’m frequently impressed with myself—my energy, my mad skills, my philosophical breadth, and my hard-earned pedagogical wisdom (dissonance theory’s induced-compliance effect, no doubt). But I’m not sure my students see things the same way. They’re probably wondering why their philosophy instructor isn’t required to hold office hours or why, if she does hold them, students’ grades and personal challenges are aired (illegally) in the presence of three office mates. They’re probably wondering why they have exams, instead of papers; why their teacher won’t remediate writing and close reading, when both are secret prerequisites for passing the course; why she so frequently loses her train of thought in the middle of lecture; why it takes so long to get papers back; why she’s not teaching in her area of expertise; why she can’t remember her students’ names; why she doesn’t know anything about the other philosophy teachers, the other philosophy courses, or the university’s Gen Ed requirements; why she lectures most days, with few of the bells and whistles they’ve heard about from their friends at wealthier schools, like experiential learning, small group activities, and Skype sessions with remote experts, to name a few; and why, as soon as finals have ended, she vanishes, unavailable for advice, rec letters, and subsequent courses.

Read the whole thing!

 

Un-diversifying academia May 18, 2016

Filed under: academia,diversity,gender,race,Uncategorized — jennysaul @ 5:20 pm

An important article on universities’ failure to tenure and retain the members of underrepresented groups that they hire.

This disturbing trend of denying tenure to women and minorities at disproportionate rates vis-à-vis white males is revealed in June Junn’s study at the University of Southern California. Junn found that of 106 tenure cases, heard between 1998 and 2012 at USC, 92 percent of white males were tenured, whereas only 55 percent of women and minority scholars were.

 

What’s in a name? May 13, 2016

Filed under: academia,language,race,Uncategorized — philodaria @ 7:24 pm

Yale philosophy major, Karléh Wilson, brings philosophy of language to bear on the recent controversies surrounding Yale’s decision not to rename Calhoun College in the Boston Review:

A few weeks ago Peter Salovey, president of Yale, made a controversial decision: he rejected the students’ argument and opted to retain the name. The decision has significant national consequences. If Yale, by reputation a liberal bastion in a liberal state, retains the name of Calhoun College, what does this signal for colleges and universities engaged in similar struggles in states where racial equality is yet more elusive?

Calhoun College was named in 1933 in honor of John C. Calhoun, an antebellum statesman who played a critical role in articulating the southern defense of slavery. In 1837 Calhoun, serving at the time as senator of South Carolina (he had previously been Andrew Jackson’s vice-president), told the Senate:

“In the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good—a positive good.”

President Salovey’s reaffirmation of the college’s name has been taken by some as a sign of disrespect for African Americans. He has defended his decision by recourse to a novel and intriguing argument: he was motivated, he wrote, out of a sincere desire to remind subsequent generations of Yale students about our nation’s troubled past. The reaffirmation is thus intended to serve Yale’s educational mission, not to honor Calhoun. According to Salovey, from this point forward the name “Calhoun College” no longer honors Calhoun’s dishonorable legacy, and therefore no longer communicates disrespect for African Americans. “Ours is a nation that often refuses to face its own history of slavery and racism. Yale is part of that history,” Salovey emphasized. “We cannot erase American history but we can confront it, teach it, and learn from it. The decision to retain Calhoun College’s name reflects the importance of this vital educational imperative.”

President Salovey supposes that his decision can change the meaning of “Calhoun College.” It cannot.

. . . Speaking is a social act. Our social world is constituted by familiar practices, myths, symbols, and stories. Words therefore acquire social meanings. A use of a word has a certain meaning because of facts about the culture, such as entrenched social practices. Salovey’s argument presupposes that his decision can change the meaning of “Calhoun College.” Since it cannot, his argument fails.

To appreciate the point, consider the Wikipedia entry “List of places named after people.” The long list attests to a worldwide social practice of naming places, cities, towns, countries, and continents to honor respected figures. Because of the ubiquity of the practice of naming in order to honor, it is reasonable to assume that when a place is named after a person, its name honors that person’s legacy. Indeed, otherwise the practice is totally illegible. This accounts for the widespread practice of renaming streets, towns, cities, and institutions as political regimes change. Vladimir Lenin’s and Joseph Stalin’s names have been removed from institutions, cities, towns, and streets throughout the former Soviet Union, as have the names of many other former tyrants. Germany has no universities, colleges, cities, or streets named after Adolf Hitler or other Nazi leaders; previously, it did.

She concludes by noting that while Salovey has a significant amount of power as the president of Yale, it is not so significant as to enable him to change the social meaning of naming places after persons. The whole piece is here.

 

Philosophy Placement Data and Gender May 3, 2016

An important post over at the APA blog, with surprising data on gender and placement, and some interesting hypotheses about the findings.

Although more men than women were placed in permanent academic positions within two years of graduation, it is estimated that women have a 0.50 unit increase in the expected log odds of finding such placement…

We have two hypotheses regarding this result that we hope to explore:

  1. Women philosophy graduates are more likely to find permanent academic placements because those women who would have been less likely to find permanent academic placement are more likely to leave the discipline before graduating than men in the same position. Here is one example of how this might occur: women are less likely to receive positive feedback or more likely to face a hostile environment than men such that less confident women are more likely to leave the field than less confident men. Women graduates are thus more confident, on average, than men graduates and confidence boosts likelihood of placement. (Thanks to “another commenter” at Daily Nous for this hypothesis.) To test this we will need attrition data that include gender. We intend to ask philosophy programs for this information in our next round of data gathering.
  2. Women philosophy graduates are more likely to find permanent academic placements because women are more likely to specialize in areas sought by hiring programs. Although our analyses accounted for first-reported area of specialization, they did not account for the area of specialization sought by the hiring program. To test whether hiring AOS helps to explain the gender effect, we intend to match our placement data to the job ads from the same time period.

Another possibility is that women philosophy graduates are more likely to find permanent academic placements because hiring programs have a preference for hiring women, all else being equal. This hypothesis has found some support in STEM fields. We do not now have plans to test this hypothesis, but could attempt in future to gather information from graduates relevant to hiring, such as publication and teaching records.

For more, go here.

 

 

 

Anthropology tackles sexual harassment April 30, 2016

So much is so familiar.  But there are some good ideas we haven’t tried.  In particular:

Meeting registrants were required to agree to AAPA’s code of ethics, which forbids sexual harassment and discrimination, and many attendees sported ribbons with antidiscrimination slogans.

Really interestingly, their problems seem just like ours, despite very different numbers.  8 out of 10 of their board members are women, and the association’s members are 56% women.

 

For more, go here.

 

 

Yale’s Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore on the decision to maintain the name ‘Calhoun College’

Filed under: academia,activism,race — philodaria @ 3:41 am

From the New York Times:

The decision to keep Calhoun’s name overestimates his value for Yale students. Yale’s president, Peter Salovey, argues that “removing Calhoun’s name obscures the legacy of slavery rather than addressing it,” and living in Calhoun’s shadow will make students “better prepared to rise to the challenges of the present and the future.”

But Pauli Murray has more to teach Yale students, 55 percent of whom wanted to change the name of Calhoun College and who will demonstrate on campus once again.

In 1938, she applied to graduate school at the University of North Carolina, in her home state, only to be rejected because “members of your race are not admitted to the university.” In 1940, she went to jail in Virginia after she refused to move to the back of a Greyhound bus. During World War II, she served as head of the nonviolent protest committee in A. Philip Randolph’s March on Washington Movement. In 1943, she organized sit-ins to desegregate restaurants in Washington. A year later, as valedictorian of Howard Law School, she applied to Harvard Law School to do graduate work. It was customary for Harvard to accept the Howard valedictorian, but Harvard told Murray, “You are not of the sex entitled to be admitted to Harvard Law School.”

Instead, after three decades of civil rights leadership, Anna Pauline Murray earned the degree of doctor of juridical science from Yale Law School in 1965. While at Yale, Murray was an author of the pioneering article “Jane Crow and the Law: Sex Discrimination and Title VII,” which argued that sex discrimination resembled race discrimination and may be prohibited by the 14th Amendment.

Murray never gave up her fight for the values that sprang from her lifelong Episcopalian faith. In a moment of despair after her 1940 arrest, she wrote in her diary that it was “dangerous” to dwell on her “weaknesses.” “The great secret,” she told herself, “is not to think of yourself, of your courage, or of your despair” but of “Him for whom you journey.”

In 1973, she entered New York’s General Theological Seminary to prepare for the priesthood, a job from which she knew she would be excluded because of her gender. But in 1976, the Episcopal Church conference voted that “no one shall be denied access” to the priesthood on account of sex. In 1977, Murray became the first black woman ordained as an Episcopal priest. The Episcopal Church made her a saint in 2012.

As Murray looked back on her activism in a 1976 interview, she recalled: “In not a single one of these little campaigns was I victorious. In other words, in each case, I personally failed, but I have lived to see the thesis upon which I was operating vindicated. And what I very often say is that I’ve lived to see my lost causes found.”

Some may argue that it is impossible to bind all of slavery’s wounds; after all, there are other residential colleges at Yale named for slaveholders such as George Berkeley, Timothy Dwight and Ezra Stiles. But John C. Calhoun is the only one whose fame came from his guiding role in a racial regime that enslaved people, inspired secession and formed the specious legal foundation for a century of discrimination.

Yale students of color, especially those who live in Calhoun College, and the thousands who protested last fall do not need any more teachable moments on the injustices he wrought. They feel the legacy of those injustices every day.

So did Murray.

There’s another article on this at CNN by John McWhorter, and coverage of student protests at Yale Daily News.

 

Reflections on philosophical rudeness April 28, 2016

Filed under: academia,bias,civility,gender,women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 5:36 pm

Nomy Arpaly has recently initiated a really interesting discussion on this topic.  After an excellent discussion of the problems of philosophical rudeness (read it!), she ties the issue to gender.

I would like to add the following. I think the state of women in philosophy can be improved significantly simply through the elimination of rudeness in philosophical discourse. One can have many views about things we could or couldn’t do, should or shouldn’t do, to improve the state of women in philosophy, but before we settle those issues, why not start by doing what we already know that we have excellent reasons to do – utilitarian, Kantian, virtue-oriented, and commonsensical reasons, independent of any special feminist theory – and reduce our rudeness?

Here is how I think it will help. First, if everyone is rude, women are judged unfairly (as potential colleagues, for example) because rude women are treated more harshly than rude men, by everyone, due to implicit bias. Implicit bias is notoriously hard to change, but thankfully it is not as hard to change behavior – such as rudeness. I am not saying that we should not try to change implicit bias – of course we should – nor am I saying that changing behavior is easy (I have plenty of experience to the contrary), but you get my drift.

Second, in the actual world, polite women are also judged harshly when they respond to the rudeness of others. In a job interview, for example, a woman who faces a rude interviewer has the choice between responding assertively (and thus facing the notorious “shrill voice” bias) and responding gently. A woman who responds in a gentle, conciliatory manner to a rude interview question, or who looks too insecure and intimidated in response to the rude question, is often perceived by the some people in the room as not having enough to say. This whole painful catch-22 does not occur if the interviewer is not rude in the first place. Again, changing behavior is much easier than changing implicit bias.

Third, it has been said many times that women are put off by the idea of entering philosophy because girls are not taught to handle confrontational, adversarial situations, or situations where one’s abilities are judged harshly. Some think philosophy should change here – either through what I called “pacifism” earlier or through changing the way we evaluate people, or otherwise. Some, on the other hand, say that though the education of girls should change, philosophy shouldn’t. After all, girls and women play sports nowadays, and compete in athletics, and the ones who do most definitely don’t ask for the rules of rugby to be changed to make it kinder and gentler, or for boxing be made non-adversarial, or for the cruelty of publishing players’ stats to be stopped.

Me? All I want to do here is suggest that we try to eliminate what we already regard as foul play, what we already know we shouldn’t do but do anyway. It won’t solve everything, but if we reduce rudeness, I solemnly promise that more women will want to do philosophy. I hereby conjecture with confidence that the simple words “sorry, but you were saying-?”, can make a critical difference, consciously or not, to some young women’s readiness to do philosophy. It might sound silly, especially if one forgets how susceptible all humans are to seemingly insignificant factors, but it is not silly, but rather tragic, if we have lost some wonderful potential contributions to the field just because we couldn’t wait for someone to finish talking. It would show the wrong priorities if we continue to lose such wonderful contributions in the name of some supposed sacred right to be as obnoxious as we’ve always been.

For further reflections on philosophy and rudeness, inspired by Arpaly, check out Kieran Healy.

 

Mother-friendly conference organising: an experiment April 21, 2016

To see how far we could get with small fixes — improving the aspects of academic conferences that are pretty easy to change — I organized an experimental conference along with June Gruber, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder (and a fellow academic mom). The conference, held at the University of California Berkeley earlier this month, brought together an outstanding group of speakers using the latest psychological work to challenge misconceptions about the mind — from the idea that pursuing happiness is a good way to achieve it, to the idea that babies are born racist. We called the conference the Misconceptions of the Mind Conference: MoMiCon 2016. And we didn’t just invite the mommies: We invited the babies.

For more, go here.

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 11,916 other followers