Readers may recall that the BPA and SWIP jointly rolled out a set of good practice guidelines for women in philosophy. Departments were invited to consider signing up for them in full or in part. I’m very pleased to say that Helen Beebee has just posted an initial list of departments that have signed up to the guidelines so far! A few of these have links to their own pages on how they have implemented the policies. More links are coming soon, as they are sent to us. And anecdotally I’ve heard great reports of really productive discussions taking place across the country as the guidelines are being considered.
Civility v. Freedom? Or something else? February 7, 2015
Daily Nous reported that Marquette University is seeking to fire McAdams, and discusses academic freedom in a separate post here. Further discussion of these events is taking place at the Academe Blog (the blog of the AAUP, though its bloggers note the posts may not represent the official position of the organization):
Competence and integrity “in the current case,” as Holz puts it, demand that McAdams refrain from “sham[ing] and intimidat[ing] [a graduate student teacher] with an Internet story that was incompetent, inaccurate, and lacking in integrity, respect for other’s opinions, and appropriate restraint.” In Holz’s telling, McAdams need not exercise appropriate restraint because doing so would foster a more civil discourse—that would be the deeply problematic civility narrative. Rather, he needs to do so because this is how you help graduate students develop as teachers, a key part of faculty members’ jobs at a university: “it is vital for our university and our profession that graduate student instructors learn their craft as teachers of sometimes challenging and difficult students.” Whenever faculty choose to take an interest in graduate students’ teaching, those student instructors have a reasonable expectation of “appropriate and constructive feedback in order to improve their teaching skills.” McAdams made no effort to offer constructive feedback before or after condemning Abbate as a teacher, by name, on his public blog.
After listing several incidents of a similar flavor, Holz concludes that “with this latest example of unprofessional and irresponsible conduct [Marquette has] no confidence that [McAdams] will live up to any additional assurances . . . that [he] will take seriously [his] duties to respect and protect [Marquette] students, including [Marquette] graduate student instructors.”
. . . Academic freedom is a license to say whatever one please in one’s research and non-institutional, extramural communications. It needs to remain such, as this license guarantees the very possibility of inquiry. And there are of course grey areas, where the limits of academic freedom are unclear. The AAUP often intervenes in these areas in the service of protecting speech rights—and rightly so. Defending faculty speech rights makes the project of a modern university possible. But so does helping students develop.
It is true that, as a matter of principle, the academic freedom central to the very idea of a university trumps civility. But McAdams’ is not a case of academic freedom under siege. His is a case of an abusive professor persistently, up to the present day, refusing to acknowledge any special obligation to the development of a graduate student at his university.
We only harm ourselves in working to add this sorry story to the record of CIVILITY v.FREEDOM.
A question for philosophy and its teaching February 4, 2015
I found the following video through a link to an issue of Nautilus on beauty and creativity on Daily Nous. It has long worried me that philosophy classes so often value the polished analytic answer, while creativity might not direct us there at first, or perhaps ever.
One example of the sort of thing that worries me. In some reading group, I think at Rutgers, someone said that Quine’s Two Dogmas of Empiricism contained no good arguments. I think most people agreed, though one would be hard put to deny that it is full of important and highly influential ideas. Do we manage to teach, and to convey, that in philosophy ideas may be at least as important as good arguments and perhaps even more so? I wondered this just recently as I saw a group of young philosophers espousing working all the time on philosophy.
Anjan Chatterjee, the speaker in the video below, has recently published The Aesthetic Brain He holds a degree in philosophy, but he is head of Neurology at the U of Pennsylvania’s Hospital.
Anyway, see what you think:
What can philosophy learn from the climate in economics? January 7, 2015
The journal Quartz recently published the article, “How big is the sexism problem in economics? This article’s co-author is anonymous because of it”.
The article starts off noting:
The Economist’s recent list of the 25 most influential economists did not include a single woman. Many male former central bankers and regional Federal Reserve Bank governors were included on the list, but the Economist gave itself a special rule to exclude active central bankers, which meant that Janet Yellen—arguably the world’s most influential economist—didn’t make the list.
Much of what the article catalogues will be very familiar to women philosophers, and to some other philosophers from underrepresented groups: Seeming constant microagressions and macro ones too. Lower pay, power imbalances, the impermissibility of assertive (=bitchy) behavior for women, having a family, a harder time getting outside offers, and so on.
The article raises another issue which is starting to receive a lot of attention in philosophy: the diversity of methods and content:
One final step that would make economics less forbidding for women is for each economist to become open to a wider range of scientific approaches and topics. Statistically, men and women are not drawn to the same fields within economics. And even within a field, women are drawn to a different balance between immediate real-world relevance and theoretical elegance. It is natural for each economist (and for each academic in general) to construct a narrative for why his or her approach to economics is the best. But since men in senior ranks in economics are more numerous than women, the narratives that men construct for why their individual approaches to economics are better usually win out in hiring and promotion decisions over the narratives that women construct for why their individual approaches are better.
Gosh, sounds like what a lot of us call home.
h/t justin weinberg
Mellon Foundation Grant to the APA for diversity initiatives! January 6, 2015
The American Philosophical Association (APA) is pleased to announce that it has been awarded a major grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grant will provide $600,000 over three years to support undergraduate diversity institutes in philosophy, including the expansion of the Philosophy in an Inclusive Key Summer Institute (PIKSI) program and the development of infrastructure to support it and other undergraduate diversity institutes.
The Guardian on philosophy’s maleness and whiteness January 5, 2015
Many voices from British philosophy here!
Just one small sample, from Meena Dhanda:
The thorn of racism is so deep in the flesh of philosophy that it is no longer visible from the surface. It hurts. We need more black philosophers, women philosophers – adventurers and heretics, unruly, rigorous and untiring thinkers, committed to making philosophy respond to the world we inhabit.
Wisdom for the New Year from a philosopher! January 4, 2015
Ruth Chang argues that many choices we make should be seen as decisions about the sort of person we want to be:
Many of the choices we face in the new year will be between alternatives that are on a par. Our task then is to reflect on what kind of person we can commit to being when making those choices. Can we commit to forgoing a much-needed new car and give the money to charity instead? Can we commit to staying in a secure 9-to-5 job rather than starting the business we’ve always dreamed of? Can we commit to having a parent with Alzheimer’s move in with us, rather than paying to put her in a nursing home?
So in this new year, let’s not do the same old, same old; let’s not resolve to work harder at being the selves that we already are. Instead, let’s resolve to make ourselves into the selves that we can commit to being.
2014 and our profession January 3, 2015
There is, obviously, a lot that still needs to be done to make our profession the place we’d like it to be. And I find it’s far too easy to let negative stuff dominate my consciousness. So over the last few days I’ve been asking people to send me lists of good things that have happened in our profession in the last year. Here’s a start. Please add more in comments!
- The Under-represented Philosophers Database is up and running.
- The BPA/SWIP UK Good Practice Scheme was instituted, and has already been adopted by several departments and learned societies/journals.
- MAP (Minorities and Philosophy) has more than doubled its chapters.
- Efforts to unionise adjuncts have been gaining in strength,with an upcoming adjunct walkout day.
- The new blog, What is it Like to be a Person of Colour in Philosophy?.
- The new blog, What is it Like to be a Foreigner in Academia?
- The new blog, What is it Like to be Trans* in Academia?
- The APA Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion has completed its first report, to be published shortly.
- The APA has appointed Task Forces to create a Code of Conduct and a Best Practices Scheme.
- The CSW Site Visit programme has carried out 5 site visits, and has 3 more scheduled. One of these was to the University of Miami, which writes:
The faculty and graduate students of the philosophy department at the University of Miami would like to thank the members of the site visit team dispatched by the APA Committee on the Status of Women as part of their Site Visit Program. The team’s visit to our campus (March 2014) was a highly positive experience for the department and we received a very constructive and helpful report. We expect to make a number of changes in our customary practices and departmental policies based on its recommendations. We strongly endorse both the goals and methods of the Site Visit Program and recommend it to other departments that aim to assess and improve climate issues.
- There are starting to be very significant discussions online about socioeconomic class within philosophy.
- The first Mentoring Workshop for graduate women in philosophy was held.
- Feminist Philosophy Quarterly was founded, first issue coming this Spring.
- Market Boost for Women in Philosophy was founded.
- The new Journal of the APA has started, with a great collection of editors.
- There’s been a great NYT series on race and philosophy.
- The Women’s Caucus of the Philosophy of Science Association has had its best attended meeting ever, with 83 people (despite being at 7.30 AM).
- David Chalmers assembled a great list of guidelines for respectful discussion.
- The American Society for Aesthetics has adopted the goals of the Gendered Conference Campaign.
- After decade upon decade of very tiny numbers, in the last five years women have become well-represented on the APA board.
- Projects like Dismantling the Master’s House are tackling the legacy of the British Empire in Academia.
- The Daily Nous, a great addition to the philosophical blogosphere, began in March.
- Many, many people speaking up and taking action– individually or collectively– to improve the profession.
- Finally, as we’re all aware, it’s been a year in which thinking about climate went mainstream in philosophy. More and more people, at more and more departments, are asking what they can do to create a better environment for women and members of other and overlapping underrepresented groups. Some of this has been painful and difficult. Some of it has been joyful and fun. For the next year, let’s hope the joyful outweighs the painful. (But let’s go on doing the painful when it really needs to be done.)
What I’m thankful for December 26, 2014
It’s been a tough year for the profession in a lot of ways. Lawsuits, lawsuits, and more lawsuits. Public scandals. Fighting over public scandals. Other scandals not public. Online harassment, bullying, and prejudice manifest. One could easily begin to feel despair. I know there are times when I have–and I know there are others who are grappling with how these issues have affected them, and the painful personal and professional costs that have been imposed on them as a result. In the hopes of spreading a bit of cheer amidst the less sanguine, I wanted to take a moment to say a bit about what I’m thankful for (this is not a complete list, of course, just the first few things that came to mind).
I am thankful for those of you who have courageously worked to make the discipline a more welcoming and inclusive place. Whether it’s been through addressing inequity, discrimination, harassment, or assault, working to create a culture where these things are less acceptable, being willing to listen to the voices of those who have been marginalized and oppressed, standing up for yourself, or providing support to others who have been unjustly harmed on account of their social identity.
I am thankful for those of you who are deepening your own understanding of the complexity of disciplinary boundaries and the ways in which they are sometimes used for exclusionary purposes, or pushing those boundaries with your own work.
I am thankful for the exciting and brilliant work that’s being done in feminist philosophy, critical race theory, and philosophy of disability. It’s been a joy to read, and though it is not this work that first spurred my love of philosophy it is the work that reminds me of it, and gives me the greatest hope for our future as a discipline.
I am thankful for my fellow bloggers here at Feminist Philosophers. You have been an inspiration to me.
What are you thankful for?
(Note: Comments in the spirit of this post welcome–i.e., spreading a bit of cheer–comments in another spirit are not, but the internet is a big place and I am sure you can find another platform to host other discussions)