The sexist bully and blowhard we saw in the first presidential debate is someone whom many of us have encountered. He might have called you Miss Piggy, or he may have scolded you for getting pregnant when still a student. He could even remark your miscarriages were a way of postponing tenure decisions, or he may have gone in for lighter teasing about your clothes, hair, and boyfriends.
A number of women have expressed their recognition of Trump’s behavior in this week’s news papers. Th NYT starts:
The direct confrontation between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton over Mr. Trump’s treatment of women didn’t come until the final moments of Monday night’s debate. But in many ways, the entire event played out as a big-screen version of what women encounter every day.
There were plenty of aha moments for any woman who is the sole female member of her company’s management team, a female sportscaster, bartender, cop, construction worker, law partner or, yes, a beauty queen. And maybe for the sole female presidential candidate, too.
It occurs to me that we might have a teaching opportunity here. If you have a colleague who goes in for this obnoxious behavior while insisting it is just good fun, tell him that he is behaving like Trump, and that he makes too many of us feel shocked and even ill.
Folks here know that I (like many of our bloggers) am very interested in implicit bias. But I get really angry when I seeing it invoked where it’s really not what we should be talking about. Like the Terence Crutcher murder.
In the wake of yet another killing of an unarmed black person by a police officer, we are once again hearing about the importance of fighting implicit bias. Now, I am completely on board with the thought that it’s important to fight implicit bias: I just published two co-edited volumes on it. It’s important, and it explains a lot. But it does not explain this murder, and it is the wrong place to look for a solution to the problem of police shootings of unarmed black people.
Call for Abstracts
The Royal Institute of Philosophy Annual Conference 2017:
Harms and Wrongs in Epistemic Practice
The University of Sheffield
3rd–4th of July 2017
We are pleased to invite abstracts for papers to be considered for presentation at a conference on Harms and Wrongs in Epistemic Practice, to be held on July 3rd and 4th 2017 at the University of Sheffield. Invited speakers are:
How we engage in epistemic practice, including our methods of knowledge acquisition and transmission, the personal traits that help or hinder these activities, and the social institutions that facilitate or impede them, is of central importance to our lives as individuals and as participants in social and political activities. In the past decade, sustained philosophical attention has turned to the various ways in which this practice can and does go awry, and the epistemic, moral, and political harms and wrongs that follow. The aim of this conference is to draw attention to the full range of these harms and wrongs. We hope to bring together a range of theorists working on a diverse variety of relevant topics in order to spark new insights and forge new interconnections.
Proceedings of the conference will be published as a special issue of the journal Philosophy. Accordingly, we are conducting a two-stage review process to ensure papers presented are of publishable quality. At this point we invite submissions of a 750 word extended abstract. Based on the abstracts we will then invite a shortlist of applicants to submit a full paper, from which we will make the final selection for the conference. See below for more information about this process. We encourage submissions from philosophers at all levels of career progression who are working on any issues relevant to the remit of the conference, broadly construed. Topics might include, but are by no means limited to:
We will be using a two-stage reviewing process. Please read the following instructions carefully. All submitted files must be in .DOC, .DOCX, .PDF, .RTF, or .TXT format.
Dates at a Glance
1st of December 2016: abstracts due
15th of December 2016: notification of acceptance to the shortlist
31st of March 2017: full papers due
15th of April 2017: notification of acceptance to the conference
Stage 1: Abstracts
At this time, we are pleased to invite submissions of extended abstracts of approximately 750 words, of papers suitable for a 30 minute presentation. Please prepare your abstract for blind review (i.e. remove all content that may identify you as the author(s)) and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org by the 1st of December 2016. Submissions must be accompanied by a cover sheet, attached as a separate file, providing the title of the proposed paper and the author(s)’s:
There is a limit of one submission per author (including co-authored submissions). Based on the abstracts we will then invite a shortlist of applicants to submit a full paper. Applicants selected for the shortlist will be notified no later than the 15th of December 2016.
Stage 2: Papers
Authors whose abstracts have been selected for the shortlist will be invited to submit a full-length paper of 6,000–8,000 words on that topic. The paper must be prepared for blind review and sent to email@example.com no later than the 31st of March 2016. Authors whose papers have been accepted for presentation at the conference will be notified no later than the 15th of April 2016.
Accessibility and Diversity
Submissions are open to all, but at least 20% of open-call spaces on the programme will be awarded to postgraduates and researchers without a permanent position. If you fall into one of those categories, we invite you to include that information on your cover sheet.
We are keen on assembling a demographically diverse programme. To aid in this, if you are a member of a demographic group that is underrepresented in anglophone professional philosophy, we invite you to declare this information on your cover sheet.
The conference venue is accessible. For more information or to make an accessibility request, please contact the conference organizers.
Stipends will be available for those accepted, but we regret that we cannot guarantee to cover expenses in full (more details T.B.C. closer to the conference date).
This conference has been organized in accordance with the BPA/SWIP-UK Good Practice Scheme.
Please direct all queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organising committee: Simon Barker, Charlie Crerar, Trystan Goetze
Further information about the conference will be available at:
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).
Jennifer Bartlett’s provocative opinion piece in the New York Times today considers the role of street harassment and cyber-harassment as she reflects upon the tension between her longing to be viewed as sexually desirable and her feminist leanings.
I also do understand what it feels like to get attention from the wrong man. It’s gross. It’s uncomfortable. It’s scary and tedious. And in certain cases, traumatic. But I still would much rather have a man make an inappropriate sexual comment than be referred to in the third person or have someone express surprise over the fact that I have a career. The former, unfortunately, feels “normal.” The latter makes me feel invisible and is meant for that purpose. I like it when men look at me. It feels empowering, not disempowering. Frankly, it makes me feel like I’m not being excluded.
It’s that time again! Shelley’s latest interview has been posted, and this time she talks to Elvis Imafidon about growing up with albinism in Nigeria; ontology in African traditions, and what analysing ideas of Being can tell us about issues faced by African countries today; disability and global justice; African ideas of alterity and otherness; and much more! As usual, it’s a fascinating and important read.
My guest today is Elvis Imafidon, who is currently a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy at Ambrose Alli University in Nigeria. Elvis has research interests in both ontology and ethics and aims to show how an understanding of these areas can enable us to deal with issues such as disability, gender bias, corruption, and biomedical issues. He is especially interested in exploring how the ontology of African traditions can be used to understand how Africans view these issues. Beyond scholarship, Elvis really enjoys cooking, is in the habit of dragging the kitchen with his wife Sandra, and has a great time with his two beautiful daughters, Evelyn and Ellen.
You can read the whole interview here.
Wise reflections from Eric Schliesser in response to Brian Leiter’s thoughts on proportional punishment of sexual harassers:
As I have noted before (while writing about the Pogge case recall), academics actually treat harms against the profession rather severely: for example, serial plagiarists (e.g., Martin Stone) are (when caught) often banished from the profession and academic life, and given no second chances. This is also true of folk that get caught in multiple cases of serious academic misconduct (Stapel, Marc Hauser, etc.). In many cases of violations of academic integrity we de facto do not believe in second chances and we think that employment in the profession should be prevented. Many years ago, a journalist pointed out to me (with a mixture of bemusement and outrage) that academics tend to treat sins against the profession/discipline far worse than society treats a whole range of awful crimes. We convey something of this attitude to our students when we can give a student a (fairly automatic) F for (serious) cheating; many universities have some kind of procedure in which a student’s academic misconduct becomes either a permanent feature of the academic records or becomes a permanent barrier to completing the degree.* What is especially notable about these cases is that disciplines and universities often are far more severe than the law. (That’s not true of all the cases; some grant agencies have become notably harsher than universities/disciplines.)
I am not denying that it is possible to treat the kinds of cases I mention in the previous paragraph as falling under some kind of proportionality principle. But (a) that’s not the natural reading of these cases and so the principle of proportionality does not apply in violations of academic integrity; and (b) if the proportionality principle is taken to apply then the severity of these punishments is strong evidence that we take violations of the integrity of the academic enterprise as extremely serious offenses. (Of course, a reformist reader may decide that the proportionality principle does apply here, and argue that the existing punishments do not fit the crimes, or that there are half-way places between utter banishment and ongoing engagement in academic work–this came up in the Hauser case.) My own favored interpretation is actually (b) — our practice reveals we tacitly take violations of the integrity of the academic enterprise as extremely serious offenses –, but what follows will only assume that one needs to argue for the principle of proportionality in the context of academic offenses and can’t take its applicability for granted….
Here I want to turn to Leiter’s important observation that the cases of sexual misconduct and worse violate 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.” I agree with Leiter about this (although I suspect that a lot of misconduct is not a consequence of perceived sexual desirability). This particular harm is distinct from all the other harms that follow from various forms of sexual misconduct (and let me grant that these harms may well fall under some proportionality principle). Violations of this fundamental idea are very much like violations of academic integrity. These violations undermine our collective mission to teach, learn, and master an intellectual discipline. In the case of plagiarism we have long recognized this, in the cases of sexual misconduct we have been scandalously slow to acknowledge it.
On October 8th 2016, from 1:30PM PST onward, in the San Diego Central Public Library, Wikipedia will host an edit-a-thon in honor of Kevin Gorman, whose passionate work on behalf of women in philosophy we highlighted in an earlier post (see also here). The editathon will be part of this year’s WikiConference North America. I will be coordinating the editathon with seasoned editor, Julie Farman.
This is a call for crowd-sourcing in advance of the editathon. What the Wikipedians most need from us: guidance about which pages are still missing, and content and references to fill those missing pages. Kevin began compiling a list of missing notable women philosophers, and a current list-in-progress is here. This is part of the “Women in Red” project (so-called because links to nowhere in Wikipedia are in red font. You can also see a list of the many pages on women philosophers that Kevin had already created toward the bottom of this link.)
For starters, you can post suggestions for pages to add on Wikipedia, about underrepresented philosophers and philosophy in the comments below. Also please feel free to email me (email@example.com) with comments, questions, suggestions, etc. We will also eventually need help with content and references. In particular, to pass Wikipedia’s “notability” guidelines, we will need reliable, verifiable references to back up what we post.
The gaps on Wikipedia remain vast, and they will not be hard to find, but here are my preliminary thoughts about concrete strategies to identify gaps:
For those who can attend the editathon in person, you can join us for lunch at 12PM PST if you register for $10 that day, or you can come at 1:30pm with free registration.
In the last part of her paper Goguen draws our attention to the effects of encountering negative stereotypes on one’s sense/conception/understanding of one’s self. This seems to me a very valuable addition to the literature. And Goguen makes it clear that more is to be done. Have a look!