Friday, July 22, 2011

They didn't Really Do That, Did They?

I've been following with interest this discussion concerning the Pluralist's Guide to Philosophy Programs's "climate" ratings, which contains "information" concerning the degree to which various philosophy departments are hospitable to women. What seems to me to be the most interesting discussion is taking place in comments here.

What happened was, Linda Alcoff, Paul Taylor, and William Wilkerson have edited a ranking of philosophy departments that is supposed to compete with the PGR, and whose advantage over the PGR is that this ranking is more "pluralistic." The pluralistic rankings also contains some informatin about the climate for women, in the form of two lists: one for "strongly recommended" departments; another for departments that "need improvement." These lists are fishy. For one thing, the "strongly recommended" list is currently seven times longer than the "needs improvement" list. Based on what I've been led to believe about the actual climate for women in this profession, that seems like it couldn't possibly be an accurate representation of how things are.

For another thing, it seems that they didn't actually ask anybody at any of the "needs improvement" departments about the climates for women in those departments. At least, that's how Leiter puts it. But I think, if you read Linda Alcoff's comments in the Gender, Race and Philosophy thread, it's closer to the truth to say that they have no idea how the data was collected. The general procedure for collecting data for the Pluralist Guide was to ask experts to rate departments along the relevant dimension; this procedure was also followed for the climate ratings. We don't know who was asked to rate the climate at, say, Rutgers (who have defended themselves with the most vigor), though presumably the organizers do. It does seem clear that nobody who is currently affiliated with Rutgers, or who was until recently, was consulted. And Alcoff seems to have admitted that she has no idea how the people who rated Rutgers (e.g.) got their information (see the parenthetical remark in point #1 here). It seems to me, then, that we have no way of knowing whether the data was reliable, up-to-date, and paints an accurate picture of the climates of these departments.

This is really shameful. It's sort of unbelievable that this is actually happening. The "Pluralists" have published a web page saying that (e.g.) Rutgers is one of three departments whose climate for women needs to be improved--which strongly suggests that Rutgers (et al.) has a particularly chilly and inhospitable climate for women--and they didn't ask anybody at Rutgers whether this was true, or whether they were doing anything to improve the climate. This can also be seen in the way that Oklahoma was initially on the list but was removed when it came to light that they had been actively working to improve the climate there; it has been pointed out that the Oklahoma incident also suggests that the editors hadn't done their homework. Alcoff has made a bunch of excuses about how difficult it is to collect good data on a topic like this, but I don't see how that justifies the use of bad data.

I mean, seriously. Did they really do that?

--Mr. Zero

69 comments:

Pluralism = Amateur Hour said...

'Fraid to say it, but I think this set of events sets back the cause of gender diversity in philosophy a great deal. It's not fair, but some will take this to show that those pushing hardest for a better climate for women are simply not intellectually serious and so will dismiss their cause. As someone who supports that cause, I'm disappointed. And angry at Alcoff et al for taking such a hamfisted, amateur approach at gathering this data

Anonymous said...

It's not shameful at all. If they believe a certain department to be bad in a certain respect, they have a right to put it on a website. Just like someone else may deny the Holocaust.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 10:23,

If your point is that the behavior of "Pluralists" is equally as shameful as denying the holocaust, I think you're actually being a little hard on the "Pluralists."

If your point is that holocaust denying illustrates the point that anybody has the right to put up a website saying whatever they want about whatever they want on whatever evidence, and so there's nothing wrong with putting one up saying that Rutgers is a crummy environment for women on the basis of what the Pluralists have admitted is testimony that they have no reason to believe is reliable and which has been demonstrated to be false in at least one instance, then I disagree with you. This point is false. It would be highly irresponsible to do that. I would also say 'shameful.'

Especially if your goal is, as the Pluralists say, to make the climate in the profession of philosophy less chilly and inhospitable for women. Setting up websites that make unsubstantiated and demonstrably false accusations of inhospitableness does not further that goal.

philosophyfactory said...

I think that collecting data like this is very difficult -- especially since current grad students and recent Ph.D.s need recommendations from their departments to get jobs -- and the departments themselves don't typically recognize a poor climate for women.

I'm also thinking that mass data doesn't give a good picture -- for example, in my grad department there were very few women and no female graduate faculty (while I was there -- it's better now) -- so, how do you measure a climate like that?

Much better would be a means by which individual women have the ability to make actual reports of problems -- without fear of repercussions -- and I doubt that will happen any time soon.

Anonymous said...

It's yet to be explained how "needs improvement" is the grand calumny that people are taking it to be.

Mr. Zero said...

hi anon 12:18,

Implicature.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, Sally Haslanger has defended this bit of libelous idiocy (she was on the 'pluralism' panel, please note), and is critical of those who, like Mr. Zero, and like all minimally principled people who have head about this, are now "blasting" the climate guide.

I agree with Mr. Zero and other commenters that, in associating women-friendliness with this sort of tripe, Haslanger et al. have harmed the interests and credibility of women philosophers.

And part of the reason seems to be, as many have been pointing out over the last few days, that Haslanger and these other individuals tend to assume that women-friendly philosophical environments are 'feminist philosophy'-friendly ones. Rutgers, NYU and Princeton do not have important 'feminist philosophy contingents, so they are deemed hostile to women even though they are clearly anything but that.

If only someone had pointed out this sort of confusion earlier!

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:02,
Haslanger did speak out in defense of the guide when the discussion started on Leiter and expressed frustration that people were questioning it. However, she later (in the same thread) apologized for attacking its critics, and acknowledged that the ongoing discussion of the (many) faults of this portion of the guide were constructive.

She has yet to retract her support for the guide, but she has not (to my knowledge) participated in the discussion after issuing that apology (which was over a week ago).

It's not like she organized it or that she even signed on for the climate guide in particular. She was on the advisory board for the climate rankings just because she was on the advisory board for the feminist philosophy rankings.

I'm not sure if it's fair to lump her in with the organizers of the guide, esp. Alcoff, who do little but sidestep important questions and give condescending and irrelevant little retorts to every piece of genuinely damning criticism.

Also, I hope that you mis-typed when you wrote that "in associating women-friendliness with this sort of tripe, Haslanger et al. have harmed the interests and credibility of women philosophers." I get what you're trying to say, but.. Really? the "credibility of women philosophers"?

Certainly the interests of women philosophers are closely tied to gender diversity and, since this guide sets gender diversity in the field back it harms the interests of women philosophers (and the interests of non-sexist philosophers across the gender spectrum). But harming the "credibility of women philosophers"... seriously?

I know of exactly ONE woman philosopher who continues to staunchly defend this idiotic guide, and it's Alcoff. The other two organizers are men, and from what I can tell they're also happy with this ignominious failure. The credibility of male philosophers should be harmed twice as much (since twice as many male philosophers are responsible for "associating women-friendliness with this sort of tripe").

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the most gob-smacking element of this episode is that people who really ought to be attuned to power dynamics really missed the boat.

Suppose we grant that the Pluralist Guide is ENTIRELY CORRECT that these departments are problematic (I agree with everyone that they haven't come close to making their case), their decision to present the information in this format is simply bizarre. Taking on the most powerful and influential departments in the discipline requires transparency, careful strategy, strong data, and a clear understanding of the criticisms of the methodology.

In other words, they need to learn a little from Omar: "If you come at the king, best not miss."

They missed, badly. And that is unfortunate because I can see many people failing to take these concerns seriously from now on.

Anonymous said...

First of all, there is currently no satisfactory way to establish empirically whether a department is friendly to women. It would be nice if those ways were developed, but they aren't already in place.

Second, Alcoff has stated the method numerous times: she asked for gender bias accounts and listed those schools from which she received accounts. Rutgers was obviously one of the schools from where accounts came.

Third, is it really that difficult to reconcile Rutgers's status as a department where improvement is needed (based on first-hand accounts) and the fact that Rutgers is currently undertaking strong efforts to promote the status of women? What's the most likely reason for the latter programs to be in place? The most likely explanation is that Rutgers used to be inhospitable to women and some administrator (maybe the Chair, maybe a Dean) kicked the department's ass until they worked actively to improve the climate.

Fourth, in criticism of Alcoff, et al., I'd like to see more positive recommendations from the Pluralists' Guide folks rather than just overly simplistic ranking.

Fifth, Leiter has been almost entirely unhelpful in this debate. His irrational hatred of the SPEP guides all his posts on these issues.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:44, what the hell are you talking about?

"Alcoff has stated the method numerous times: she asked for gender bias accounts and listed those schools from which she received accounts. Rutgers was obviously one of the schools from where accounts came."

That's not true. She didn't receive accounts from schools. She received accounts OF the climate at certain schools FROM the members of "Feminist Philosophy and Gender Issues Advisory Board" listed on the PS's site. Nobody at any school on that list was consulted (unless they were on the advisory board)

"is it really that difficult to reconcile Rutgers's status as a department where improvement is needed (based on first-hand accounts) and the fact that Rutgers is currently undertaking strong efforts to promote the status of women?"

People aren't contesting Rutgers's position in the "has a shitty climate for women" category (See anon 12:18 vs. Zero 12:22) because they are currently trying to improve their shitty climate. They're contesting it because every day we get more and more actual first-hand evidence that the climate for women at Rutgers is quite good. That is, currently quite good. Also, they're working to make it keep being good and also get better. There are many schools not on the "needs improvement" list with far shittier climates that aren't getting any better.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing @4:44 is the author of http://theoriekritik.wordpress.com or http://philosophicalchasm.blogspot.com...

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

Just to clarify: when I said that this nonsense (which, as you note, Haslanger has yet to distance herself from) harms inter alia the credibility of women philosophers, I didn't meant that it actually indicates anything wrong with women philosophers.

What I did mean is that, as several women philosophers rightly complain about, there is a very unfortunate tendency for some people to run together women philosophers with practitioners of fem. philosophy (as though women need a sort of special olympics to feel comfortable in philosophy).

It's very similar to the way that Jews complain about the tendency of ideological zionists to equate judaism with extremist zionism. Many (one hopes, most) Jews want nothing to do with the actions of the JDL, etc.; but their credibility in the eyes of many is tarnished because of the actions of the extremists who run the two together and consider opposition to extreme zionism to be a form of anti-semitism.

Substitute in Alcoff, Haslanger, etc. for the zionist fanatics, women for Jews, and 'feminist philosophy' (and other SPEP interests) for radical zionist ideology, and the situation is pretty well the same.

Anonymous said...

"Like" 4:36 snd "4:43"

Awesome "The Wire" ref.

Anonymous said...

there is a very unfortunate tendency for some people to run together women philosophers with practitioners of fem. philosophy

Hm, I'm pretty sure that Mr. Zero managed to refute this claim in another thread. (Or maybe that's too strong -- he managed to show that no evidence for it has been given.)
What is true is that some commenters (it could be just one) keep saying that there is such an unfortunate tendency.

Anonymous said...

No, 3:59, he just asserted it repeatedly and very strongly.

Mr. Zero said...

Just so we're clear on what 3:02/9:53 is talking about, here's what happened: someone who eventually settled on the name 'YaySally' accused the UK Society for Women in Philosophy and Sally Haslanger of (separately) failing to distinguish between a friendly attitude toward feminist philosophy and women-friendliness in general. (In this comment and this one.) The "evidence" consisted of quoted texts in which the SWIP in one case and Haslanger in another suggested that fostering an environment in which feminist philosophy is welcome is one of multiple ways to create an environment friendly to women. The SWIP mentions being supportive of faculty and staff who have childcare responsibilities in addition to friendliness to feminist philosophy; Halsanger adds the creation of situations in which women and minorities are not in the minority and of systems for accountability & support.

This is, of course, not evidence of the charge of conflation. Haslanger and the SWIP cite x, y, and z as signs or evidence or otherwise having influence over whether F obtains, so YaySally infers that they believe that y (in particular) = F. This obviously doesn't follow, as YaySally eventually conceded.

Anon 9:53 is right about one thing, though: I did end up having to repeat this point a number of times.

As for anon 3:02's charge that the Pluralists employed a "feminist philosophy" criterion to distinguish the "strongly recommended" departments from the "needs improvement" ones, I don't think the evidence is conclusive one way or the other. One of the central problems with the Climate Guide is that it is completely unclear how the lists were generated. So it is unclear whether it was generated in this way.

Anonymous said...

Hi. This is Anon 4:44. Some of the criticisms of what I wrote (that I'm some bizarre character from some other blog?) are too silly to address. But one thing I'll address is this: I never said that Rutgers is a bad place for women to do philosophy. What I said is, I think, a rather obvious point: that receiving accurate reports about Rutgers being inhospitable to women is in no way incompatible with the very admirable steps Rutgers has taken to improve the climate for women.

I also laid out a very plausible, and I think quite common, scenario for how this might go: that the climate for women *used* to be inhospitable for women, and that these steps were taken *in response*...perhaps, and quite likely given the testimony we've received, successfully.

Another Girl said...

Mr. Zero, I read the previous thread differently. Sadly, though, I read it too late to take part in the discussion.

First, Philosophical BF attributed to his girlfriend (falsely, as it turned out) the view that feminist philosophy was pseudophilosophy. The remark was made in passing. After some feminist philosophers freaked out about it, you freaked out too, and played the sexism card.

In a later thread, YaySally, ThatGirl, and others explained how much they were frustrated with feminist philosophers getting to be the spokespeople for women in philosophy. YaySally (as I remember) claimed that Haslanger had, in some places, conflated the promotion of women in philosophy with the promotion of feminist philosophy. Later, she/he added a quote that seemed to imply this to some degree. Then, ThatGirl pointed out that sex is one factor among many along which people can be disadvantaged in philosophy. She spoke from experience, and gave examples.

You went nuts. In the ensuing discussions, most of the other side of which we apparently never got to see because you censored a bunch of what the other side said, you kept pushing the view that YaySally would never have said that Haslanger had committed a fallacy if Haslanger had been a man; and you refused outright to engage with ThatGirl because, you said, she couldn't understand the issue if she intended her interesting parallel case seriously.

In response, YaySally and ThatGirl both courteously backed down to some extent: YaySally admitted that it wasn't 100% clear that, in the particular quote under discussion, Haslanger had committed precisely the fallacy in question; and ThatGirl conceded (needlessly) that her analogy might have gone too far.

Both these concessions, as I saw them, were intended to help you stop huffing and puffing and politely back off some of your own extreme reactions. But you did no such thing. You took them as a sign of your utter victory, and declined to engage any further. Woe unto her who concedes a point to Mr. Zero, the moral seems to be!

Anyway, it is undoubtedly the case that many people confuse feminist philosophy with women's philosophy. You yourself quite obviously did that at the time, as did MIT Grad. Your implication that YaySally's criticisms of Haslanger were occasioned by sexism would otherwise make no sense.

As another up-and-coming female philosopher, I must say that what disturbs me most of all is the way these pretended 'feminist philosophers' have managed to keep us in an age of male chivalry: whenever the legitimacy of feminist philosophy is in question, 'enlightened' males revert to being bold knights and heed the calls of damsels in distress. As a woman, I find that highly embarrassing and backward.

It is much to your credit, Mr. Zero, that you at least are not supporting Alcoff this time. Haslanger, as someone else pointed out, is.

The Rutgers Women, and the women and men who have joined them in standing up for a true feminism, are an inspiration. It gives me another reason for wishing I could have gone there. I hope that their work is a sign of things to come.

Anonymous said...

There's an excellent discussion with Alcoff here about the guide.

http://sgrp.typepad.com/sgrp/2011/07/more-facts-on-the-climate-survey.html?cid=6a00e54edd28da8833015390040664970b

Kudos to the brave people of both sexes who aren't afraid to stand up for justice and transparency in the face of bullying and stupidity, and are even giving their names... which is more than I dare to do.

call said...

Another Girl, that's a rather trollish comment. Among other bits, I laughed at this one:

"Later, she/he added a quote that seemed to imply this to some degree."

Yeah, *seemed* (to you, I guess that means); and it had *some degree* of implication. Even retyping those words made me roll my eyes.

Peppering your comment with snotty bits like "feminist philosophers freaked out" and "you went nuts" is particularly trollish.

My favorite, though, is that you call yourself an up-and-coming female philosopher. Hmm. Doubt it.

Another Girl said...

Here's what I've learned from this and the previous episodes, Mr. Zero: however thoughtful and self-critical you normally are, all bets are off when the topic is feminist philosophy.

YaySally and ThatGirl tried to have a decent conversation with you about it. You reacted by interpreting YaySally's views in the most uncharitable manner, considering her/his entire point to be worth nothing just because she/he had backed off in a minor way from a side point. Then, you refused to engage with ThatGirl because you didn't like her analogy, choosing instead to try to shame her for presenting her argument.

And now? You refer to me as a 'troll' for the most uncharitable and silly reason. And then you are so insulting as to express snide doubt that I have a future in philosophy on the same basis.

What garbage. I'm sorry I even tried to engage with you on this. This blog's readers deserve better. I'm sorry you haven't yet figured out that there is something very wrong with the extremely anti-intellectual, knee-jerk way you are dealing with this whole issue.

Perhaps you might consider what sort of 'feminism' you are supporting, when you need to beat up on so many women and marginalize our views in order to promote it.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Another Girl,

Sorry, this is going to have to be a two-parter.

First, Philosophical BF attributed to his girlfriend (falsely, as it turned out) the view that feminist philosophy was pseudophilosophy. ... After some feminist philosophers freaked out about it, you freaked out too, and played the sexism card.

You're misremembering. This thread was, I think, where Philosophical Boyfriend said the thing about "pseudophilosophy." I did not freak out or play the sexism card there. I also did not freak out or play the sexism card in the main PBF thread. You can confirm this for yourself by searching the pages for my comments.

In a later thread, YaySally, ThatGirl, and others explained how much they were frustrated with feminist philosophers getting to be the spokespeople for women in philosophy.

I didn't dispute that complaint; I put up a post whose purpose was, in part, to discuss it. The main text of that post contained a quote from PBF in which he raised exactly that point.

My disagreement with YaySally concerned the accusation against Haslanger. When YaySally subsequently began to claim that the real point was that you can't say anything bad about feminist philosophy without being accused of sexism, I addressed that point as well.

You went nuts.

I'm honestly not sure what you mean. Although I found that discussion intensely frustrating, I would not say that I went nuts. It would help me if you could be more specific. Where do you see me going nuts?

you refused outright to engage with ThatGirl because, you said, she couldn't understand the issue if she intended her interesting parallel case seriously.

That Girl made a number of comments, some of which I thought were basically right and some of which I thought ignored important bits of the preceding discussion. I didn't "engage" with some of these comments because I didn't have anything to say. But when it became clear that it was very important to YaySally that I respond in some way--he posted a comment consisting entirely of capital letters demanding that I do so--I said that it was my opinion that she ought do whatever work she thought was important, and that she could thereby resist the "feminist philosopher" hegemony.

You yourself quite obviously did that [confuse feminist philosophy with women's philosophy] at the time

Again, I'm not sure what you mean. I don't disagree with Haslanger and the people at SWIP that creating an environment in which feminist approaches to philosophy are respected is a piece of the puzzle, but that doesn't mean I don't know the difference between feminist philosophy and philosophy done by women.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Another Girl,

Part 2:

Your implication that YaySally's criticisms of Haslanger were occasioned by sexism would otherwise make no sense.

Come on. You know what doesn't make sense? citing x as evidence of y when you think x and y are the same thing. Haslanger says that she sees promoting feminist philosophy as being one of a large number ways to advance the interests of women in the profession. It's on a list with a bunch of other things. The accusation that she has failed to distinguish between them is both unsupported by the evidence and to accuse her of a really dumb mistake.

I initially expressed skepticism that people would be so willing to attribute such a dumb mistake to e.g. Stephen Yablo. But when YaySally insisted that he would, I didn't dispute it. (In fairness, though, I must admit that I did make fun of it.) Later on, I asked YaySally to reconsider whether he would have accused a man of the same thing, but a. I did this in a respectful manner, and b. it was totally reasonable to do this in light of the large body of evidence that there exist latent biases that cause people to take women less seriously than men, and which affect everyone whether they know it or not. These biases are latent, which means that the effects are not available to introspection and the fact that you don't think they affect you is not at all evidence that they don't affect you.

Both these concessions, as I saw them, were intended to help you stop huffing and puffing and politely back off some of your own extreme reactions.

Again, it would help me if I knew when you think I huffed and puffed, and which reactions you think were "extreme."

In the ensuing discussions, most of the other side of which we apparently never got to see because you censored a bunch of what the other side said

That thread contains over 100 comments. I declined to publish 3 or 4 of the least worthwhile. The "other side" had every opportunity to make its case. If that case is unpersuasive, it is not because I withheld the one awesome comment that would have changed everything.

It is, of course, possible that I have abused my power as blog moderator to suppress high-quality comments from the other side so it would look like I won the argument. I take it that YaySally would characterize my behavior this way. Maybe I was doing this without realizing it. Maybe I'm just no good at this blog moderating stuff. And if any of that's what you believe, that's your business.

But allow me to point out that I posted a lot of comments by YaySally, That Girl, and others who vehemently disagreed with me. The Haslanger discussion went on long after I said how tired of it I was. I posted comments from people complaining about how I hadn't posted their other comments. If I wanted to shield myself from criticism, suppress discussions I was unhappy with, and make myself look blameless guy who everyone thinks is always right, I'm doing a lousy job.

I think if you look at the pattern, you will see that I withhold only when they are extremely trollish or, in the case of YaySally, when the same person repeats the same point over and over and over again without acknowledging the many criticisms of that point that had been posted.

The Rutgers Women, and the women and men who have joined them in standing up for a true feminism, are an inspiration.

I could not agree more.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Another Girl,

You say:

And now? You refer to me as a 'troll' for the most uncharitable and silly reason.

That wasn't me. That was "the Call." The vitriol in your comment is misdirected.

Another Girl said...

My bad, Mr. Zero. I mistakenly read 'call' as you.

Major apologies!

Anonymous said...

Whether or not Haslanger has (ever? occasionally?) conflated promoting feminist philosophy and making the profession more welcoming to women, what she certainly has done is defended the awful SPEP climate guide (she's one its advisory board members), and is shamefully silent now that more and more revelations about just how awful it is have come to light - while giving Linda Alcoff a platform on her blog to defend the guide in an increasingly preposterous fashion.

As for SWIP, they gave a women-friendliness prize to UO because it made taking a feminist philosophy course mandatory, while one of its "feminist" philosophers was encouraging graduate students to stay quiet about a sexual predator on the faculty so that the prize wouldn't be jeopardized. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

what she certainly has done is defended the awful SPEP climate guide (she's one its advisory board members)

Would you please cite this "defense"?

On Leiter, Haslanger called for more constructive criticism. I didn't see any defense of the climate guide. Maybe you'll provide a quotation, but my bet is that this is (more) slander.

Anonymous said...

BS! She insinuated that Rebecca Kukla's very constructive criticism on Leiter's site was not constructive. She called for people to stop the "damning of a reasonable effort" (the climate guide) that was anything but a reasonable effort - more like a combination of unsubstantiated smears and dangerous praise for dangerous places. She insinuated that the critics of the guide were speaking out of ignorance, and should just have asked the authors of the guide (who weren't even named on the SPEP guide site when she made that comment) for information that would have cleared everything up. We've seen how that's gone. They are STILL refusing to say how they processed their crappy data, and how and why the list was changed several days after the launch.

If that's not defending the guide, I don't know what is.

And now she's silent. Disgraceful.

By the way, for anyone who might be in doubt, here is her comment in full:

"If people are concerned about the process (note that the site being referred to is a test site), then why not ask the authors of the Guide? Why blast something without full information and without waiting until the authors deem it ready to release? Why not make a constructive contribution to an ongoing effort? Could we all step back a moment to think about how to be collaborative rather than damning of a reasonable effort to supplement the dominant information available?"

Res ipsa loquitur.

Elizabeth said...

Anon @ 9:01 PM:

Haslanger then APOLOGIZED.

Similarly, SWIP UK was so horrified to learn about what's happening at the recipient of their award that they have announced they are not going to issue any more awards unless they can figure out a better way to do it.

SWIP followed what I would have thought was a reasonable procedure -- they email a department admin at each nominated dept and ask them to send a message to all faculty, staff, grad students, and undergrads asking for confidential feedback on the nomination -- and now we can all see that it turns out that procedure can let a huge error slip through.

Feminists are allowed to make mistakes too, you know? I actually think the way SWIP handled it is exemplary. (Quite a contrast to the way Alcoff has handled the criticism of the climate for women guide, that's for sure.)

Stuff like this is what makes me feel like there's a double standard for feminists. It's ok to make a mistake and then acknowledge it!

Meanwhile, I do wish that others involved with the climate guide would speak up -- in part because, as angry as I am with Alcoff's handling of the matter, I agree with Rebecca Kukla's (very principled) comments about how unfair it is that she's left as the only public face of the guide.

But I also wonder if one reason why they're loath to do so is because they don't want to humiliate Alcoff but are trying mightily to convince her via backchannel to back down. Or, maybe some of them are just not very principled, but I don't want to conclude that without knowing what they're trying to do, even if I really wish they'd do it more publicly.

I, in short, am trying to be charitable to all concerned.

Anonymous said...

Strongly agree with the previous post. Absolutely disgraceful. (And make no mistake, many have noticed this, although only a fraction will say it.)

Some will point out that she apologized on Leiter's blog after her early comments. Please note, however, that she apologized for her *tone*. But the problem with those comments was not the tone, but their content.

Anonymous said...

Hm, that comment (there were others at Leiter, and Haslanger has, of course, posted other things at other sites on this topic) seems very even-handed and reasonable to me. I don't think it "insinuates" anything. In a later comment, Haslanger apologized to Kukla for *implicating* that she shouldn't have offered the criticism she did. (Kukla had noted, correctly, that there was such an implicature in the first comment.)

Can't someone think that the *effort* to supplement the Philosophical Gourmet Report was reasonable, but at the same time refrain from defending the *content* of the Pluralist Guide? Actually, this seems to me to be exactly the right position to take.

I find the repeated attacks against Haslanger to be very creepy. I don't think I've ever witnessed anything like this in philosophy.

random feminist said...

Anonymous 12:12:
Please note, however, that she apologized for her *tone*.

Not so. She apologized for the implicature. Implicature is not tone.
Here is the apology (and surrounding comments).

[Full disclosure: I know SH pretty well, and I was once a student in a program at which she was on the faculty.]

Mr. Zero said...

It seems to me that, while it was clearly a mistake for the SWIP to give the award to Oregon, this mistake was understandable since the people at Oregon actively concealed their sexual harassment problems.

Furthermore, it seems to me that revoking the award is clearly the responsible thing to do in this situation. I think it matters that this mistake was made, but I think it matters more how the mistake is handled. This strikes me as an imminently responsible way to handle it, as does using the mistake as an occasion to revise the procedures that led to a highly undeserving department receiving the award, as does giving serious thought to discontinuing the award if no reliable procedures can be found.

I would say that this whole fiasco, while sad, is also highly instructive.

Anonymous said...

I'm with 4:34. The idea that there should be an alternative ranking and guidance document other than the PGR (which regardless of Leiter's blustering about 'pluralism' carries its own biases which are trumpeted every day on his blog) is a good idea. It was unfortunately not carried out very well in this case. But that does not mean that there was not something to the idea. At this point, however, somebody or some other group should do it. SAAP and SPEP are large organizations with many members. How the entire organizations have been impugned when this is the work of a few members or philosophers who have an affiliation with those groups is crazy. It seems to me there are lots of diverse people in these groups and most of them are 'good' philosophers. But Leiter's slash and burn strategy, as usual, attempts to destroy a whole group. So now SAAP gets added to SPEP as a group of 'dumb' or 'non-rigorous' philosophers. But surely somebody or some group is capable of producing an alternate advice and ranking system while also escaping Leiter's ire.

Anonymous said...

@Elizabeth 9:58: It's okay to make a mistake and then acknowledge it. But none of the advisory board members of the SPEP climate guide, Haslanger included, have actually done so about the guide. There has been plenty of time by now for backchannel dealing. Members of the advisory board should make a public statement distancing themselves from the guide immediately, or have their reputations rightly suffer. If they don't, they'll demonstarate that there apparetnly is a double standard for feminists, just not in the way you meant it.

@Anon 4:34: The context makes clear that by "a reasonable effort" Haslanger meant the guide itself, and not just the effort invested into making it, regardless of its content. And, at any rate, it's very dubious that the effort that could produce such a lousy guide was anything close to reasonable. That the methodology was incredibly poor is obvious to anyone, and should have been even more obvious to the members of the advisory board.

Tom Kelly said...

Hi,

Long time (occasional) reader, first time poster--

Anonymous 4:34 says:
Haslanger has, of course, posted other things at other sites on this topic

(Here "other sites" = sites other than Leiter). Could someone point me towards her other discussions? (I'm afraid that I don't know my way around the philosophy blogosphere well enough to keep up with all of this!) Thanks in advance!

Mr. Zero said...

I don't see where Leiter has argued that the "Pluralist's" Guide should not exist. He has argued that the Climate section should not exist in its present form; he has argued that it is not genuinely pluralistic; but he has also said that the guide itself serves a useful purpose.

Anonymous said...

I realize that Leiter does not directly claim the Pluralist guide should not exist. I think Leiter does a lot of good things for the discipline and didn't mean to put him in that light. But he also doesn't refer to it as the Pluralist guide. He equates it with two organizations--one of which he has long claimed does 'bad' Party-line Continental philosophy. So, perhaps you are right, he would welcome a new guide just so long as it endorses his rather non-pluralistic definition of what philosophy and the study of philosophy should be. But maybe a different kind of guide might be helpful to those who choose something else. If I wanted to become a Husserl scholar, for example, I think some different suggestions might be helpful

not elizabeth said...

Anon 7:52:

It's okay to make a mistake and then acknowledge it. But none of the advisory board members of the SPEP climate guide, Haslanger included, have actually done so about the guide.

I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean -- can you clarify? Specifically, do you mean to be referring to the Pluralists Guide's advisory board for feminist philosophy and gender issues? And if so, what mistake do you think the advisory board has made?

Anonymous said...

Is there some community of creepy obsessed Haslanger-haters out there who have just started coming out of the woodwork around here, or is there just one creeper sock-puppeting? It's really starting to get weird. Anybody trying to publicly "call someone out" and make demands should probably not be anonymous. Comments sound like they were written by somebody doing an impersonation of Ben Affleck's impersonation of Keith Olbermann. You should be ashamed Sir!

Anonymous said...

@10:41 - The climate guide in anything like its present form is a colossal mistake (at best). It smears innocent departmetns and praises guilty ones. The advisory board members (including Haslanger) - at least those who weren't merely listed as such without their consent (!) - bear responsibility for the guide, and for the appallingly negligent way in which it was compiled. They should pull it and issue a public apology.

Anonymous said...

The advisory board members (including Haslanger) - at least those who weren't merely listed as such without their consent (!) - bear responsibility for the guide, and for the appallingly negligent way in which it was compiled.

Can you explain just how the advisory board bears responsibility for the report? I don't see that. I think the advisory board members are responsible for what they did. I'm not sure exactly what that was, but until someone provides specific information I am going to assume that what they did was to give advice that they were asked to give. I have no reason at all to suppose that any particular one of them did that badly.

Anonymous said...

Note that the Philosophical Gourmet used to be a horrible source of information, but after it faced quite a bit of public criticism/ opposition from Richard Heck and other prominent philosophers it improved.

http://web.archive.org/web/20021003182225/http://www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~heck/aboutpgr/

I'm not defending the Pluralist guide, but reminding people that it takes time to make a reliable guide.

Like others I think that the "climate for women" section should be removed, but that they should continue to try to improve the reliability of the guide and be more transparent in their methods.

Mr. Zero said...

...until someone provides specific information I am going to assume that what they did was to give advice that they were asked to give.

One of the most profoundly damning facts to emerge about the report is that you can't even assume that much. You can get listed on the advisory board by doing nothing other than failing to tell Linda Alcoff that you would rather not be listed on the advisory board.

I share anon 11:56's creepitude about this Haslanger stuff. Iit seems to me that her defense of the guide and subsequent retraction/apology are well-documented, although there remains controversy as to the precise nature of the defense and retraction. I don't think this controversy can be resolved on the information presently available. So unless new shit comes to light, I consider the Haslanger matter closed and will not publish further comments speculating about her role in the production of the guide or her responsibilities with respect to it.

Anonymous said...

This has been an interesting thread, but I must correct the revisionist history at 12:52 pm (I realize this is now a decade ago, so ancient history for many). The PGR was quite a useful source of information long before Richard Heck, and it was widely used for that reason--which is why it was worth Heck's trouble to complain about it. But the changes that have been made in the intervening 10 years did not involve any of the changes Heck called for (which were mostly foolish and would have made the PGR less useful). For those interesting in ancient history, you can read my reply (with links to replies by Keith DeRose, Graeme Forbes, Julia Annas and others) here:
http://web.archive.org/web/20021018184910/http://www.utexas.edu/law/faculty/bleiter/open_letter.html

--Brian Leiter

Anonymous said...

But there is plenty of information available, Mr. Zero. Haslanger defended the report, and she has never distanced herself from it or denounced it.

What, exactly, are you waiting for? We need to talk about this!

Mr. Zero said...

Haslanger defended the report, and she has never distanced herself from it or denounced it.

I'm not aware of a place where Haslanger defended the guide; I am aware of this comment in which she said, if you want to know how the report was compiled ask the people who compiled it. Then she apologized for having done that, here.

I'm not aware of anyplace where she accepted responsibility for the guide, explained her role in creating it, or anything like that. She's on the Feminist Issues Advisory board, but so are 44 other people, and you can get on that advisory board by not opening emails from strangers. So I don't see why she is being singled out as someone who should denounce the guide or otherwise react to it.


But there is plenty of information available, Mr. Zero.

And that information seems to have been thoroughly digested. In the absence of additional information, the matter is closed. If there are places where she says that the climate guide is awesome, or where she says she played a significant role in the creation of the climate guide, or where she says that the climate guide should be left up as a conversation-starter even though it is intrinsically shitty, point 'em out. If not, take it somewhere else.

Anonymous said...

The problem is structural and unfixable. Whereas respected academics are well-situated to adjudge the quality of work from those outside their departments, they are not typically well-situated to judge the climates of other departments. No amount of gradual timkering with the methodology will change this.

Anonymous said...

Zero, my understanding is that you are not the originator of this blog, but that you and others inherited it from someone else. I can only imagine that it was given to you on the understanding that you would continue to support its goals.

It is difficult to see how you can be said to be doing this if you openly admit to presenting a highly unbalanced perspective on issues of legitimate importance to philosophers by refusing to publish criticism of figures you admire. The mere fact that you have a subjective feeling of 'creepiness' when Sally effing Haslanger's behavior is called into question (after being prompted by just the sort of ideological poster to whose demands you typically cave) is no grounds at all for doing this. Not, that is, if you wish to maintain at least the pretense of objectivity here.

Regardless of how you feel about the facts we all have, many -- and probably most -- of us think they add up to a need to hold Haslanger accountable. If you need reassurance of that, and of the fact that we critics are not mere 'sock puppets', please consider the number of critics on other blogs who have provided their names.

If you disagree with us, then let's argue it out. But censoring our comments and telling us off in the process is just unacceptable.

If you find that hard to swallow, then perhaps it's time for _you_ to go somewhere else. I've heard others talk about things getting stale here before, but now I'm really starting to feel it.

Mr. Zero said...

Zero, my understanding is that you are not the originator of this blog

That is correct, kind of, but so what? I have been granted the day-to-day responsibilities of running it. I have this responsibility in virtue of the fact that I alone am willing to do it.

...but that you and others inherited it from someone else.

That is incorrect. Jaded Dissertator and Second Suitor started it. They invited me to join a week later.

it was given to you on the understanding that you would continue to support its goals.

It's goals are to bitch about stuff.

It is difficult to see how you can be said to be doing this if you openly admit to presenting a highly unbalanced perspective on issues of legitimate importance to philosophers by refusing to publish criticism of figures you admire.

I don't have strong feelings about Haslanger. I feel strongly about treating people with fairness and proportion.

The mere fact that you have a subjective feeling of 'creepiness' when Sally effing Haslanger's behavior is called into question (after being prompted by just the sort of ideological poster to whose demands you typically cave) is no grounds at all for doing this.

Can I ask you something? Do you know how to read? If so, then you must know that it is not just that I find your bizzarre obsession with Sally Haslanger creepy. It's that there's no evidence that she defended the climate guide, no evidence that she was instrumental in its production, and no evidence that she has said that it is on balance worth leaving in place in spite of its obvious flaws. Her only entry into the debate that I know of was to suggest that people contact the editors of the guide if they have questions, and she later apologized for having done that.

If you disagree with us, then let's argue it out.

I have also said that if you know of someplace where she actually defended the guide, you are welcome to point it out and have the discussion. If you know of someplace where that happened, let's see it. If not, shut the fuck up already.

Anonymous said...

Haslanger clearly defends the guide in the comment on Leiter where she asks people to stop "damning a reasonable effort." The guide was not a reasonable effort by any stretch of the imagination - and your reading of her comment on which it doesn't constitute a defense isn't reasonable by any stretch of the imagination either.

She has also given ON HER OWN BLOG a platform to Linda Alcoff to defend the guide in a post and over many comments, and has not indicated in any way that she disagrees with that defense. It's pretty reasonable to interpret that as a tacit endorsement. If you, say, invited a guest blogger to this blog to attack Haslanger, and then had the same guest blogger attack her again in the comments without you stepping in at any point to say you disagree, one would quite reasonably assume that you agreed with the attacks. One would even reasonably assume that if you didn't speak up, as you have, when only arbitrary commenters attacked her in the comments.

Now, has Haslanger been singled out for criticism somewhat unfairly by a number of commenters here? Yes. But that's probably because she's - very deservedly - the most prominent philosopher associated with the guide (or at least among the 3 or 4 or 5 most prominent), and one of only a handful that have been willing to say anything about it. Not a single bona fide member of the advisory board has as yet denounced that dishonest atrocity and said it should be taken down (Anita Allen has said she was listed as a board member without her participation or consent). EVERYONE on the advisory board of that scandal of a guide should feel obligated to publicly state whether they stand by it. ANY bona fide board member who stays silent should take the deserved hit to their reputation that comes with the silence. And as these things go, the better the initial reputation someone has for intellectual and moral integrity, the bigger the hit.

Mr. Zero said...

Haslanger clearly defends the guide in the comment on Leiter where she asks people to stop "damning a reasonable effort."

Yes, but she apologized and my god we've been over this like 100 times.

She has also given ON HER OWN BLOG a platform to Linda Alcoff to defend the guide in a post and over many comments

This is a blog she shares with eight other people. Do you know that she is the one who made it happen? Please share.

Now, has Haslanger been singled out for criticism somewhat unfairly by a number of commenters here? Yes.

Agreed.

EVERYONE on the advisory board of that scandal of a guide should feel obligated to publicly state whether they stand by it. ANY bona fide board member who stays silent should take the deserved hit to their reputation that comes with the silence.

I agree with you. Besides Haslanger, Allen, and Carla Fehr, who has said some dumb stuff in this thread, there are 42 of them.

that's probably because she's ... the most prominent philosopher associated with the guide ... and one of only a handful that have been willing to say anything about it.

Sure. But Linda Alcoff is an actual editor of the guide, and is the only person I'm aware of who has been willing to literally defend the climate guide as a guide to departmental climates. Alcoff has been mentioned 17 times in this thread to Haslanger's 50. Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

You're right - that blog has nine bloggers, and two in addition to Haslanger are on the advisory board of the climate guide (Willett and Maitra, although neither of them seem to have ever posted on the blog), so it might not have been Haslanger who invited Alcoff to guest-blog. It's still pretty disturbing that none of the three - especially Haslanger because she seems to regularly participate in the comments there - have indicated any disagreement with Alcoff.

My guess as to why Alcoff is being mentioned less here: she's widely seen as a second-rater with a SPEPite axe to grind, so there's less surprise that she's reacting this way, whereas Haslanger is widely and rightly seen as both excellent and principled, so the apparent lapse in this case is more of a shock (and the fact that the guide clearly used the presence of a certain flavor of feminist philosophy in a department as a proxy for good climate probably feeds into some people's worries about Haslanger's views about the relation of the two, justified or not).

Anonymous said...

Just so we're clear: I came in at 6:22 and am not 7:29. There are many of us here making the same point.

Anonymous said...

I doubt most people who have engaged with Alcoff's work - for example, Visible Identities, which was acclaimed as one of the best books in philosophy of the previous decade in a Leiter thread on the topic - would agree that she is a "second-rater". Anon 8:41, to be fair, spoke of how Alcoff might be seen, and thus did not actually endorse such a judgment. But it's worth noting how strongly many of us in the field would disagree with that judgment.

Anonymous said...

Zero, the reason Haslanger was mentioned more times than Alcoff in this thread is due largely to two things.

The first is the fact that some of your readers (and you) sought to get her off the hook on this affair, whereas nobody did so for Alcoff. Hence, there was no need for further debate on the Alcoff matter.

The second is your extraordinary decision to serve as judge and jury as to whether the evidence we have on Haslanger implicates her in the matter. You are willing to open discussion again only when someone sends in what _you_ take to be good enough evidence (even though most of us think it's already in). And only you will be permitted to see such evidence.

I guarantee that, if you were to have done something so outrageous regarding Alcoff instead, we'd be mentioning her name more than Haslanger's.

Anonymous said...

8:48, etc.,
Yeah, and just so we're clear, I'm not any of the people who said you are very creepy. There are a lot of us.

Mr. Zero, wtf?

Mr. Zero said...

The second is your extraordinary decision to serve as judge and jury as to whether the evidence we have on Haslanger implicates her in the matter.

That's not what happened. It's not like I granted her a full and unconditional pardon. I did serve as judge and jury about whether there was any point in the "She defended the guide" "No, she said why don't you ask the editors how they compiled the guide" "NO, she defended the guide" "But she apologized for having done that" "No, she apologized for her tone" "No, she apologized for her implicature" "She defended the guide" "Is there someplace else where she defended the guide?" "she should denounce the guide" back-and-forth. The discussion was euthanized because it was focused for far too long on the true nature and meaning of a pair of comments everyone can read for themselves and one of which is an apology for the other. If you want to argue it out, be my guest. But argue it out over something about which it is possible to say something that hasn't already been said.

You are willing to open discussion again only when someone sends in what _you_ take to be good enough evidence

That's not what I said. If you look at my comment at July 25, 2011 @ 12:58 more carefully that you have in the past, you will see that there is an explicit caveat about new shit. I said, you need to get something new, without saying anything about whether I had to like it. But maybe I wasn't clear. If that's the case, I apologize.

And anyway, if you keep reading, you will also see that I subsequently posted a bunch of further comments about Haslanger. I haven't withheld any comments at all. The Haslanger discussion lives on, albeit in a less redundant form.

Anonymous said...

there's a discussion on this also going on here — in case you missed it:

https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/pluralists-guide-recommends-department-with-ongoing-harassment-scandal/#comments

Anonymous said...

5:05, you've invented a new fallacy! It's a keeper.

P1. X seems to have done bad thing Y.
P2. However, there is one logically possible interpretation of X's actions that is not as bad.
P3. T, U, V and W all argue that this interpretation is wrong.
P4. I find that really, really creepy.

C. Therefore, we should shift the discussion to what's up with T, U, V and W and refuse to discuss whether X did Y.

T=U=V=W said...

10:57, yes, that is exactly what 5:05 said! Good job identifying the fallacy!

Now full steam ahead with your obsession (which Mr. Zero has obviously decided to indulge after all).

U said...

T=U=V=W,

I am U, and not T, V, or W.

My evidence for that is first-person recollection of what I did or did not post.

You claim that I am mistaken, and that I am T, V, or W.

That's a pretty preposterous thing to say, unless you have evidence at least as good as mine that controverts mine.

Do you have any such evidence? What is it, please? What could it possibly be?

Or are you just stating your gut feelings as though they are facts? Are you aware of the difference between these two things? It's pretty important.

Mr. Zero said...

No more "you're a sock puppet"/"no I'm not" comments. There's no way to confirm or disconfirm accusations of sockpuppetry, so there's no point in discussing it.

Tom said...

I hope it is common ground that Sally Haslanger is highly motivated to improve the position of women in (and out of) philosophy. I
I think it's clear that she has recognized that the people behind the guide are putting time and energy into something that has the intention (among other intentions) of helping women in philosophy. All the evidence suggests that her reaction has been to ask "how can we work together to use this energy to actually help the position of women?"

Some of Haslanger's critics and sympathizers have claimed that she has "defended" the report and has failed to distance herself from it. If we mean "endorsed" by "defended", then I disagree with both points. All she said (and she said this about the entire report, not just the climate for women bit), was that it is a "reasonable effort." Anon 7:52am claims that context makes clear she is talking about the product rather than the trying. But I fail to see the evidence for this interpretation. I do see that a sentence or two before she says that it is a "test site", which is a strange thing to say if you are trying to endorse the finished product. Moreover, I take it most of us have graded papers before. I can't imagine I am alone in having praised someone's effort, with the Gricean implication of distancing myself from endorsing the outcome. Anon 9:01pm claims that she "defended" the report because she objected that the Report's critics were not being constructive enough (an objection she later retracted). I don't mind calling this a "defense" of the report, as long as we are being clear that we do not mean an "endorsement" by "defense" here.

As for "distancing herself"... At a later post, Haslanger says that she "disagrees with many aspects of" the guide, and that she "too [has] criticisms of the" guide. What more do people want in the way of distancing herself from it, given her expressed intention of working constructively to see how things might be improved?

Some want her to go further in her criticism, by publicly denouncing the guide on the blogs. But Haslanger herself says on Leiter that "Posting criticisms on a blog isn't the best way to communicate in my experience" and she mentions later that she is communicating her criticisms privately.

And as for Linda Alcoff posting on the blog that many people, including Haslanger, run... This seems particularly unfair. The critics of the report have asked for more transparency on how the report was created. The Alcoff posts do that, and I think that they alone make them worthy of public posting. I like to think that if Brian Leiter were approached to post these, he would have done so, recognizing that it is clearly in the philosophy community's interest to hear Alcoff's methodology and response. Were he have to done so, I would not infer that he was defending the report.

Lastly, I wonder whether it is the considered opinion of Anon 6:22pm that it is appropriate to refer to her in a public forum as "Sally effing Haslanger"?

Anonymous said...

I wrote a lengthy response to this, Tom. Sadly, Mr. Zero declined to publish it for some reason.

Mr. Zero said...

Sadly, Mr. Zero declined to publish it for some reason.

It was the same old song and dance about how terrible Haslanger's first comment on the Leiter thread was. Comments like that have been done to death.

Bonnie Mann said...

Since the supposed "UO Scandal" has been mentioned on this blog, I refer posters to a statement by 7 of the 10 current faculty members at UO, as to the misinformation that circulated as fact on Leiter's and other blogs: http://www.newappsblog.com/2011/08/open-letter-from-several-members-of-the-oregon-philosophy-department.html. If you want more reading, our local newspaper just did a story: http://www.newappsblog.com/2011/08/open-letter-from-several-members-of-the-oregon-philosophy-department.html. There is a story under "News briefs" and a shorter statement under "slant".

Anonymous said...

Although Bonnie Mann claims that the OU letter responds to misinformation if read carefully it actually admits many of the allegation against OU.

Sure as hell sounds to me like they tried to keep the allegations a secret from SWIP-UK.

Here are Mann's own words:

"All faculty, staff, and graduate students in our department were invited (on 2 May 2011) to comment directly and confidentially to a representative of SWIP-UK concerning the department’s nomination for their “women-friendliness” award. Although many graduate students were aware of the ongoing review at that point, either by being interviewed or by way of rumor, the majority of the faculty were not. When faculty members did learn of the review, they expressed the need to respect the due process of those involved. The department also organized an informational meeting between the graduate students and representatives of the administration and OAAEO, as well as holding a department-wide meeting to increase understanding about the review process and formulate next steps for our response as a community. No faculty member made any effort to suppress information for the purpose of winning an award."

Note the very narrow qualifier "for the purpose of"