1752 Group: Ending Sexual Exploitation in Higher Education

An important new group.

The 1752 Group draws on expertise from our backgrounds in organisational change, private and public sector consultancy, facilitation, corporate training, grassroots activism, and research. As a lobby group our activities are intended to begin a national conversation leading to action around staff-to-student sexual misconduct and exploitation in higher education. Sexual misconduct by academic staff, and the sexual harassment of students by staff members is under-reported and under-researched. Higher education institutions in the UK are not doing enough to support complaints, address cultures of abuse, and implement policies and procedures to eliminate the sexual misconduct of students by academic and professional services staff.

For more, go here.

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.

Bordo on “Lying Hilary”

Just when we thought we were finally moving on to issues of substance, those damned emails (as Bernie Sanders, in one of the most spontaneous moments of the primaries, called them) are back in the news. Like Freddy Kruger, they just won’t die—because the media won’t let them.

This time, they were reincarnated by the Washington Post, who gave Clinton four “Pinocchios” for trying to correct Chris Wallace in a Fox News Sunday interview on July 31. Wallace had said, inaccurately, that “FBI director James Comey said none of those things that you told the American public were true.” But Wallace was either uninformed or lying, for Comey had said nothing of the sort. Rather, he said (in the July 7 congressional hearing that followed his public announcement of the results of his investigation) that he wasn’t “qualified to answer” the question of whether Clinton had lied to the public.” What he did feel qualified to answer was whether her answers to the FBI were truthful, and on that issue he had replied that “we have no basis to conclude that she lied.”

What did Clinton reply that got her pantsuit set on fire? Instead of quoting Comey’s lawyerly “no basis to conclude that she lied,” she answered in terms ordinary people use and said Comey had said, “her answers were truthful.” She then went on to connect the dots between her FBI testimony and what she had said to the public, describing them as “consistent” with each other. Complicated, perhaps. Requiring a bit of thought on the part of listeners, yes. But a lie? Give us a break.

SAF 2016 at UMass

The Society for Analytical Feminism 2016 Conference

Analytical Feminism:
Past, Present, & Future

at the University of Massachusetts Lowell’s Inn & Conference Center
Friday, September 16 – Sunday, September 18, 2016

Over 60 speakers including keynotes by

Nancy Bauer (Tufts University)
Teresa Blankmeyer Burke (Gallaudet University)
Tommie Shelby (Harvard University)

Co-sponsored by the University of Massachusetts Lowell and Boston University

For the full program and registration information, please visit https://sites.google.com/site/analyticalfeminism/upcoming-events/saf-conference-2016

Questions or concerns should be directed to the conference organizers, Carol Hay and Susanne Sreedhar, at carol_hay at uml.edu or sreedhar at bu.edu.


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.

More thoughts on Pogge letter from women of colour

We have already published one reflection from a woman of colour on the Pogge letter and discussions surrounding it.  Leiter has published another., by women of colour from developing countries.  Here’s what it says:

 They had originally planned to make this a signed statement (which I had offered to post), but as one of the authors explained to me:

At each step, we were discouraged by friends and colleagues, who said we would be viewed as apologists for Thomas, and that we could kiss our feminist reputations goodbye. I’m very disappointed with where we are in academia, and I’m also disappointed with myself. We’re going to have to think of another way of expressing our views, or perhaps we will just need to wait a few months until the storm blows over. I’m sorry for having wasted your time, though it’s been good (for me) to connect with you. I read your blog regularly and appreciate your courage on many issues very much.

In the end, they decided they could share the statement they drafted, but without their names.  Here it is:

We write to express some concern about the widely circulated Open Letter condemning Thomas Pogge. We clarify, first, that our aim is not to cast doubt upon the allegations upon which the letter is based. We are all too familiar with the institutional ‘cultures of silence’ that try to muzzle women who speak out against sexual harassment and sexual assault. We stand, always, with such women of courage in their quests for justice.

Our intention, here, is to advocate for the women, including ourselves, whose academic achievement, commitment to social justice, and personal integrity have been unjustly brought under a cloud due to Prof. Pogge’s alleged misconduct and also some efforts to condemn it. In particular, our concern is with what is said and yet left unsaid in the open letter. Among other things, Pogge is accused of violating professional norms by making “quid pro quo offers of letters of recommendation and other perks,” presumably in return for sexual favours. In no way has this been our experience with Prof. Pogge. Nor is it that of many other women whom we know to be professionally associated with him. In our view, the open letter should have been more discriminating in its choice of words rather than painted with such a broad brush.

Furthermore, while it is commendable that concern for the well-being of women, “notably women of colour,” associated with Pogge features prominently in the open letter, we are saddened that there is no corresponding language that recognizes our talent, merit, and integrity. This is a serious lapse, given the potentially harmful impact of the letter on women, notably young, professionally insecure women of colour from developing countries, who have worked with Prof. Pogge.

It is distressing that any of this needs to be said. But in a world where women still struggle to be taken seriously in their professional lives, and where women of colour are all too easily eroticized and portrayed as lacking agency, dignity, and integrity, we speak out of concern that the open letter’s categorical language on Pogge’s women of colour victims, along with thoughtless social media discussions about his corrupt, nefarious relationships with them, will only reinforce sexist and racist stereotypes. Our unease is amplified by the fact that the letter was shared hundreds of times across multiple online platforms, i.e., well beyond the academic “philosophical community” to which it is originally addressed. We ask for more caution, care, and compassion moving forward.

As one of the feminists who’s been very involved in trying to reform our discipline, I’m really saddened that people are hesitating to speak under their own names about this, for fear of losing their feminist reputations.  I think the myth of the monstrous feminist cabal is a very damaging one.  But I know that it’s out there (the myth, that is, not the cabal), and I do understand worrying about it.

But I’m glad that they’ve shared their concerns, so that we can discuss them.  To my mind, the real damage to the reputations of women with references from Pogge comes from his behaviour, not the behaviour of those criticising him.  And public criticism is important.  But yes, that criticism makes more people aware of the problem, and that awareness is then likely to undermine the force of all of his letters.  And this IS damaging– damaging, as the post notes, to philosophers of great integrity, talent, and merit.  I’d welcome suggestions of how to deal with this immensely difficult dynamic in comments.  (Would the post’s suggestion be the best way to do this?  Are there other ways this could be done?)




Narcissism in Science

(Note: judging from the article, ‘narcissist’ is not being used in a diagnostic sense.)

The central claim of Lemaitre’s new book, as the title suggests, is that many of the problems in science today arise from the fact that too many scientists are narcissists. And the malaise is particularly acute, he writes, in “research fields such as immunology and neuroscience, which are in the public’s focus and more sensitive to swagger and catchy wording”….

So how have colleagues reacted to a book that offers a depressingly macho and Machiavellian image of today’s science? It is still early days, replies Lemaitre, but he has already received “positive feedback…from many female scientists who are usually more sensitive to this issue”.

Read it all here.  Thanks, C!

$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.

A new fallacy or just old hat?

There’s a way of thinking that I’ve encountered a number of times recently.  One struck me quite dramatically at the Hume Society meeting; it was in an otherwise excellect paper.  I’m inclined to think  the way of thinking is fallacious, but I’m willing to believe I’m wrong.

The pattern of thought goes like this:

philosophical reflection reveals that a desireable trait has [or is constituted by the possession of] features X, Y and Z.  So if we practice X, Y, Z we’ll become better people and have a better chance to succeed at goal G

[see comments one and two for  the amendment.]I hope this can be discussed without discussing any particular instance.  And anyone who feel indirectly targeting here, shouldn’t!

So let me try to give a silly example:  We might say that Descartes shows us how to detach the mind from the senses and get clear and distinct ideas.  This is a foundational move for those who want to be good mathematicians.  So if we follow Descartes, we can become better mathematicians.

The problem that I want to focus on with this line of thought is the idea that philosophers are privy to the psychological conditions for the successful pursuit of human excellence.  Maybe sometimes we get that right, but over the last 20-30 years the evidence has been mounting that uncovering the right psychological conditions that do lead to excellence is really not a matter simply of traditional philosophical expertise.  We could use, for example, some studies of the effects of scepticism about the senses on budding mathematicians.

At the Hume conference, Sean Nichols gave a great paper about how Humean human moral reasoning is.  I think it illustrates the role empirical work can have in some  areas of enquiry, maybe particularly those attempting to understand how to achieve excellence.

But in any case, I’d love to know what others think.