Thursday, April 9, 2009

APA Anti-Discrimination Petition

If any readers are in members of the Pacific Division and are in Vancouver, please seek out Kate Abramson. From comments on Leiter's blog:
As Alastair mentioned in the last thread, from the bylaws of the Pacific it looks likely that what (should) happen next/as a result of the mtg today is that the motion should be put to the membership of the Pacific by mail ballot. I am myself, however, a bit unclear from the Pacific rules as to just how much discretion the EC of the Pacific has in deciding whether to forward the motion to the membership for a vote (I have every confidence the vote will go our way if that does happen).

What does seem clear to me is that if at least 20 members of the Pacific division sign a petition asking that the motion be put to a mail ballot vote, the EC loses such discretion as it has in deciding whether to forward the motion to a mail ballot vote of the membership. (I have no reason to think the EC would of their own accord hesitate in so the motion to the membership-- I do, however, have long and first hand familiarity with the opposition in this territory)

The bylaws of the Pacific include the following:

"Amendments or additions to these by-laws may be proposed only by the Executive Committee, by the national Board of Officers, or by a petition signed by at least twenty members of the Association with voting affiliations with the Pacific Division."

That's where you all come in. I copied and pasted the motion at issue on to a piece of paper with a single line to the effect that "we, the undersigned, ask that the following motion be put to a mail ballot of the membership". I am in Vancouver.If any of you reading this now are members of the Pacific, here at the Pacific APA, and willing to sign your name to the motion (in fact, at this point it's even weaker than that-- it's just signing your name to a petition that says 'put this motion to a vote'!) please come find me in the lobby. I'll be down in the lobby (only got room internet) by 10am Vancouver time, and expect to be there--or in Starbucks-- until at least 11am. Twenty signatures--that's it! C'mon, at least 20 of you are reading this, right? (I'm short, long red hair, enormous ears, and wearing a vaguely purple-ish shirt)

Many thanks.
Also, if any of you attended the meeting and wouldn't mind reporting on what happened, please do so in comments.

--Mr. Zero


Alastair Norcross said...

Here's what I posted on the Leiter blog about the meeting:

For the record, here is the amended motion that was passed at the Pacific Division business meeting:

Whereas the American Philosophical Association has a clear policy opposing discrimination based on race, color, religion, political convictions, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender identification or age; and whereas several institutions that explicitly violate that policy with respect to sexual orientation have recently placed advertisements in Jobs for Philosophers; and whereas more than 1400 members of the American Philosophical Association have signed a petition calling on the APA either to enforce its nondiscrimination policy or to change it; the Executive Committee of the Pacific Division is directed to request that the APA Board of Officers and National Office consider whether the APA (1) enforce its policy and prohibit institutions that discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation from advertising in Jobs for Philosophers, or (2) clearly mark institutions with these policies as institutions that violate our anti-discrimination policy, or (3) publicly inform its members that it will not protect gay philosophers and remove its anti-discrimination policy to end the illusion that a primary function of the APA is to protect the rights of its members.

The motion passed unanimously. Only Pacific division members had standing to vote, so I don't know how many present who were members of other divisions would have voted against the motion. The effect of the motion is as Kate and Michael have said. The APA Board will consider the interpretation and enforcement of the nondiscrimination policy at their next meeting. I am confident that they will interpret the policy in the same way that the overwhelming majority of APA members apparently do. That is, that they will interpret the policy as opposing the kind of behavioral restrictions that forbid homosexual sex but allow heterosexual sex, at least within the confines of "traditional" marriage. If they interpret the nondiscrimination policy in the more narrow fashion urged by Mark Murphy, it is open to us to put a change of wording to the APA membership in order to clarify the position. I don't think it will come to that. The APA policy is clear as it stands.

I would like to thank the Executive Committee of the Pacific Division, especially Dominic Lopes, for helpful suggestions concerning the workings of the APA. They indicated to me that they would have placed the matter before the Board and National Office, even without passage of the motion. The unanimous passage of the motion was, therefore, largely symbolic. But it was, I think, an important symbol. I would also like to thank everyone who came to the meeting to support the motion, and especially Kate Abramson. I would also like to thank those who came to oppose the motion (there was at least one). Respectful disagreement is important to the functioning of the APA.

Anonymous said...

The next APA Anti-discrimination Petition should warn job searchers about certain institutions (let's see, University of Colorado Boulder) that discriminate against faculty who write unpopular essays and lose their tenure as a result, then are determined by a court of law to have been wrongfully dismissed at which time the administrators and faculty at the institution do everything they can to stop the reinstatement of the wrongfully dismissed faculty member. Maybe Ward Churchill is right: the faculty at UC Boulder are just too busy drinking lattes and shopping for their next bicycle jersey to care.

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course, the Ward Churchill affair is relevant to discrimination against gay philosophers. How could I not have seen that before reading Anonymous's post, and eating those funny mushrooms?

Anonomously Anonomous said...

there were more than one.. Some of us couldn't make it in so we stood outside the room trying to hear.

Strong work.

Anonymous said...

8:08 has to learn to read ... "The next APA Anti-discrimination Petition" not the current one. No test for relevancy of gay philosophers is required. Eating funny mushrooms is your prerogative. But you should learn to read. Literacy is a basic building block for developing philosophical acumen.

Mr. Zero said...

I think I can read, but I don't think I can see the relevance of the Churchill affair to this discussion.

For one thing, as a member of CU Boulder's ethnic studies department, Ward Churchill was not a philosophy professor. He doesn't work on philosophical issues. He's not represented by the APA, so I don't see where the APA has any responsibility to take an active role in his case.

Secondly, the tone of your comment suggests that you think something is amiss with respect to the behavior of the APA or certain of CU's philosophy professors--this is obviously what 8:08 was responding to. Your comment reads in a way that strongly suggests that you think it was wrong of the American Philosophical Association's membership to devote time & energy to the issue of discrimination by philosophy departments on the basis of sexual orientation because of the existence of a wrongly-terminated douchebag from CU's ethnic studies department. But that's dumb--as you point out, that just wasn't the issue this time around.

Finally, it's not as though the Churchill issue hasn't received attention from the APA's membership. Leiter's blog, where most of the heavy lifting involving the gay petition took place, contains a number of posts devoted to this case, too. Leiter has been an outspoken critic of Churchill's ouster. (Didn't you notice? You can read, right?)

So I don't see your point. Your tone makes it hard to take your comment as a serious proposal for action. Rather, it seems to be an accusation of wrongdoing or hypocrisy. But the details of the "proposal" don't make sense when one tries to see it as a criticism of any particular behavior or attitude. So, what's your point?

Anonymous said...

I think that his/her point is that the activity of discrimination is separable from the object of discrimination. Discriminating against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation is still discrimination. So is discrimination on the basis of race. So is discrimination on the basis of your views (especially if they are unpopular). The position that the anti-discrimination policy is only meant to protect gay philosophers is the kind of narrow proceduralism that is perfectly suited for narrow-minded bureaucrats (not imaginative philosophers). Any policy that benefits gay philosophers will usually benefit gay academics, academics generally, gays generally and society generally. Did the desegregation of schools in the south only help African-American students? Of course not. If Norcross has a problem of discrimination at his school--in other words, he lives in a glass house--then perhaps he should not be throwing stones. Perhaps he should address the problem of discrimination where he is.

Anonomously Anonomous said...

I was there. It was exciting. Standing room only with a few people out the door. On the way to the elevators on the way back people were talking about how it was the most applied session they'd ever been to at an APA.

Alastair Norcross said...

"If Norcross has a problem of discrimination at his school--in other words, he lives in a glass house--then perhaps he should not be throwing stones. Perhaps he should address the problem of discrimination where he is."

That's a pretty terrible argument. Ever taken a critical thinking course? Are you saying that anyone at a college with some problems of its own must address those problems before addressing any problems elsewhere? Besides, I'm a member of the APA as well as a faculty member at Colorado. My motion was addressing a problem with the APA. It's also something I have the ability to do something about. As a member of the Pacific APA, I was able to propose a motion that forced the National Board to address the issue. As a faculty member at Colorado, I am able to complain about their firing of Churchill. I have done that, as have many other faculty members.

Did it also ever occur to you that I might think that discrimination against homosexuals is worse than what happened to Churchill?

I would recommend some more careful thought before posting next time.

Anonymous said...

"Ever taken a critical thinking course?" (insult)

"I would recommend some more careful thought before posting next time" (intimidation)

"Respectful disagreement is important"


Anonymous said...

1] The insult was justified.
2] Shouldn't be intimidating, unless, as seems to be the case, the OP has troubling thinking carefully.
3] Respectful disagreement can only happen when instigators present arguments which aren't silly. The closet fundamentalists posting here haven't met the condition, and can't legitimately hold up any end of a respectful disagreement. If anything - oddly enough - the fundamentalists, who preseumably take seriously rules about honesty, are here showing a lack of intellectual honesty.

Anonymous said...

As an every other day particularist, I think sometimes that showing respect can make an action worse. On my off days, I think that that true respect often involves insulting people who ask for it.

Also, saying something like "I would recommend some more careful thought before posting next time" to someone who left an anonymous comment on a blog isn't a form of intimidation.

Don't be a horse's ass. (Name calling)

--Friend of Alastair