Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Some Things I Still Don't Understand About the McGinn Case

I have gone back and forth about whether to publish this post or not. There'd be something I didn't understand, so I'd write about it a little, then decide not to publish it and put it away. Then something else would come up, and I'd write about it a little, then put it back away. And so on. Interest in the case, as evidenced by our comment section, has waxed and waned several times. And McGinn's recent posts raise some interesting points. So I figured, what the hell. Readers who are sick of this shit should feel free to skip it--and let's be serious, maybe so should the rest of us. This is none of my business, and it's probably none of yours.

Anyways, here are some things I still don't understand about the McGinn case.
  1. At the University of Miami, under what circumstances would a faculty member be required to disclose a consensual but non-sexual relationship to his or her superiors and withdraw from evaluative authority? The Miami faculty handbook says, "romantic, amorous, or sexual," but (as McGinn has pointed out) that's not too specific. 
    1. Suppose the senior person wanted a sexual relationship with the junior person, but didn't act on this desire and was able to successfully keep it to him- or herself. Disregarding practical difficulties with enforcement, would the person be required to disclose and/or withdraw? [My guess: no]
      1. On the other hand, if we suppose that the senior person is secretly in love with the junior person, then I suspect that the senior person would be required to disclose and withdraw--although this would defeat the purpose of being secretly in love. But that just shows that you shouldn't be secretly in love with your graduate students. Literally: if you are, you have an obligation not to be.
    2. Suppose the senior person wanted a sexual relationship, suggested this to the junior person, and then the junior person declined. Does the disclose-and-withdraw requirement apply there? [My guess: possibly, yes. Maybe. Not entirely sure. It depends?]
    3. Suppose that, according to the senior person, the relationship could be correctly (if cryptically) described as an "intellectual romance" that was not at all sexual in nature. Does the disclose-and-withdraw requirement apply in that kind of case? [My guess: I have no idea because I don't know what that even means.]
  2. What was the basis for this (potential?) charge? Why did the University think that McGinn was obligated to disclose the relationship? Based on what I've been led to suspect is the evidence, this isn't the most obvious charge, after all.
    1. I think I understand the non-McGinn side of the story, thanks to a recent anonymous commenter. (Who, of course, may or may not be on the level. Who knows? Not me.) According to this comment, the university initially approached McGinn with this charge because when the RA turned over the incriminating emails, she submitted only those that contained McGinn's (alleged) advances and stuff, and did not simultaneously turn over emails or other evidence of her having declined (in spite of the fact that this evidence (allegedly) existed). This meant that although the University could see that there was an apparent sexual aspect to the relationship, in that he had (allegedly) proposed sex, it could not immediately determine that it was not consensual, or that it had persisted despite her objections. This meant that it could not sustain charges of sexual misconduct or harassment at that time.
    2. Now, maybe that's what happened and maybe it isn't. I don't know--I'm not Columbo. But I can at least follow the logic. On McGinn's version, though, I can't see how the University's behavior makes any sense. I can't see where there's any policy at Miami that says you have to disclose and withdraw from positions of evaluative authority over your friends or your mixed-doubles partner or whatever. If McGinn's version of the story is true, why would anyone have thought that he was required to disclose and withdraw? 
  3. McGinn says that the President of the University of Miami has the power to overrule the Faculty Senate, and can unilaterally declare that, say, sexual harassment has occurred even if the FS finds that it didn't. Where does this come from? The UM faculty handbook contains a detailed description of their disciplinary procedures, (I'm looking at § B4.9, pp. 29 - 33) but I can't find any mention of this power. 
  4. In Edwin Erwin's letter to Seth Zweifler, who is the author of both of the CHE articles about the case, Erwin indicates that it is his view that "most of" the second article "is very fair to [McGinn]," although some portions of it misrepresent the case against him. These portions misrepresent the case by suggesting that it was about sexual harassment when, according to Erwin, it was really just about McGinn's alleged failure-to-disclose and withdraw. 
    1. But as I read it, the suggestion of sexual misconduct has been present from the very beginning. It pervades both of the CHE pieces, and virtually all of the subsequent commentary. As far as I can tell, there has been literally no mention of the failure-to-disclose charge other than McGinn's own complaints that the case about him has been misrepresented, and my occasional commentary about it in which I wonder what in the hell that's all about. I don't see how anything anyone other than McGinn has said could be taken to suggest that this is anything other than a sexual misconduct case. And the bulk of what McGinn himself has said about it (apart from his explicit denials, that is) seems to suggest the same thing. 
    2. And so I don't understand why Erwin and McGinn (in virtue of the way he has approvingly reposted the Erwin letter) would be willing to say that "Most of [the second CHE] article is very fair to Colin". If they see things how they say they see things, they'd have to think that virtually all of the CHE's reporting on the case is deeply unfair. 
  5. I was reading McGinn's recent post, in which he reprints his initial response  to the University to the failure-to-disclose charge. 
    1. Reason 1 doesn't strike me as very strong. If a disclosure-requiring relationship exists, that one or the other (or both) of the relata do not wish to disclose it makes no difference whatsoever. Disclosure and withdrawal from evaluative authority protects both parties from a variety of potential negative effects, including a lot of the things McGinn mentions later on.
      1. Another weird thing about this is the implication that he and the RA had a discussion about whether he should disclose and withdraw. If so, then the existence of this discussion indicates that there was some question as to whether he should disclose and withdraw, and that it was thought by at least one of them to be worth discussing. If it's worth discussing, maybe it's worth discussing with someone who has a clearer understanding of the policy than McGinn claims to have. If the policy is as unclear as McGinn thinks it is, maybe he got it wrong.
      2. And I think it matters when this alleged discussion took place. Before or after the "handjob" email? Before or after the alleged request for sex? Makes a difference.
    2. Reasons 2 through 8 strike me as fairly compelling, but only if you construe them as reasons not to begin a disclosure/withdrawal-requiring relationship with the student. Construed as reasons not to disclose an existing disclosure-requiring relationship, they are very weak. 
    3. I don't understand reason 9--it is absolutely mystifying. I can't see anything in the relevant section of the UM faculty manual that might be interpreted as precluding the coauthoring papers, or the making of positive statements about the person in a general way. What's he talking about? 
    4. Reason 10 seems to me to assume facts not in evidence, given McGinn's own claims that he's not sure what the regulation means. McGinn says he doesn't think the relationship warranted disclosure/withdrawal. I don't know if he's right, but according to several people who have seen the emails, McGinn made sexual jokes involving her performing sex acts and suggested that they have sex. I don't know if that's true, but I also don't see a way to make sense of the University's position if it's not. (See item 2.1.) And McGinn's denials seem to be more semantical than categorical. And since McGinn admits that he doesn't understand the policy very well--he finds it incomprehensibly vague--I'm not sure I find his opinion here particularly trustworthy.
  6. Another recent post uses a hypothetical discussion about a nuclear attack on Iran as a prop to illustrate the difference between proposing a course of action and merely entertaining it. This post seems to indicate that the "sex three times" incident reported in the second CHE article actually happened, but not quite as reported. McGinn doesn't specifically say what he's talking about, so it's hard to be certain if that's it. But he seems to be saying that he did not literally propose sex, but merely was willing to entertain the possibility of sex in order to be assured that it was not a good idea and that it was not even the least bad of some set of alternatives. 
    1. For one thing, why does everything McGinn says about the case have to be couched in riddle and metaphor? Why can't he just tell his side of the story in plain, literal language? Maybe this is epistemically questionable, but the fact that he is unable or unwilling to do this makes it very hard for me to see things his way. 
    2. For another thing, under what circumstances would it make any sense at all to "entertain" this possibility? I think I understand why a top government official might be willing to entertain the possibility of a nuclear strike against Iran, if only to immediately rule it out so that the discussion can move on to more viable proposals. Especially if the goal was self-consciously to discuss the pros and cons of all possible courses of action. 
      1. But I don't see why it would be necessary for a professor to entertain the possibility of having sex with his research assistant, in order to assess the pros and cons of that course of action, on the way to consideration of more viable proposals. 
      2. And I don't see why it would be necessary to discuss specific numbers of sexual encounters as individual alternatives. (The "n times" remark. Maybe I'm misinterpreting.) Maybe that was supposed to make it funny.
      3. And I don't see why it would be necessary to include the research assistant in these discussions--seems like it would be a pretty bad idea. Suppose you're the high-ranked government official who's trying to find a solution about Iran. Suppose that you're having the discussion in which you entertain the possibility of nuking them. Suppose that, for some reason, you have not made this discussion private between you and your national security team or whoever, and that you have literally included  the Iranian government in this conversation. How easy is it going to be to convince them that this discussion of nuking them was entirely innocent, and that you were just contemplating it, were not suggesting it, and there's no reason to take it as a serious proposal? I think it would be hard. 
      4. And I don't see how an intelligent person could be surprised if other people were to miss the crucial detail that he was merely entertaining the possibility, and not actually suggesting it. Or, if the person didn't believe him when he said he was  merely entertaining it without intending in any way to suggest it. It seems to me that a discussion like that is all but guaranteed to generate misunderstanding. And that the kind of misunderstanding it would generate is likely to get a person fired and/or divorced. It seems to me that "entertaining" a possibility like that would be an incredibly stupid idea.
  7. Regarding McGinn's "advice" post from earlier today, I'm not sure I have much to say. Some of it sounds like decent advice--it might not be a bad idea to maintain a certain level of professional distance from one's students--but some of it seems a little unreasonable and extreme ("Do not form genuine friendships with students. Do not engage in any non-academic activities with students.) Of course, he's had a recent bad experience and can be forgiven for advising an abundance of caution. 
    1. He's clearly right, though, that "there will be an immediate presumption of guilt against you if an allegation is made," that you should "not suppose that the authorities are much concerned with justice"--assuming he means the administration, who will be concerned with protecting the institution from liability--and that if someone has accused you of sexual harassment you should immediately get a lawyer. That all seems basically right. 
I'm really sorry about this.

--Mr. Zero

474 comments:

1 – 200 of 474   Newer›   Newest»
Anonymous said...

yes, to all of this. thank you.

Anonymous said...

"I would like to wind this down, and I hope this is my last post on this disagreeable topic (but you never know)."

I love how much he hates posting about this, and then continues to do so anyway.

And then feels the need to comment on his own posts.

Anonymous said...

tl;dr, but I just came here to ask why anyone should give a shit about this any more. There's a whole bunch of stuff we don't know and won't find out, so why continue speculating?

Given the evidence we have so far, it looks like the guy was acting in an unacceptably creepy way and got punished. Regardless of all the possibilities that we can't rule out (given what we know), that seems to be the best explanation. Great, finally an event where things went down the way they should.

Collectively pointing fingers with a self-satisfied, warm feeling in our hearts isn't going to make the profession any less sexist. I also don't think all this publicity is going to encourage more harassed women to come forward. Given the ugliness that this episode has revealed, I think if I were a harassed woman I'd just leave the profession rather than go through all the trouble.

Mr. Zero said...

I just came here to ask why anyone should give a shit about this any more. There's a whole bunch of stuff we don't know and won't find out, so why continue speculating?

That doesn't seem wrong to me. But it also still seems to me that this is an extremely important case, for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons is that the person at the center of it keeps putting up these blog posts where he defends himself publicly. And I think it's important in a case like this not to merely presume guilt given that the accusation was made, and I hope it's clear that I haven't done this--that is, I hope I haven't done it, and I also hope it's clear that I haven't done it. I could be doing it wrong, but that's my goal.

And so I think it's important to take a close, critical look at what he says in his defense, in order to see if it is plausible, or illuminating, or makes any sense. And, clearly, when I read what he wrote, it leaves me with a lot of questions.

I thought it was potentially, if not actually, worthwhile to post these questions for a number of reasons. First, it really does seem like people are still interested in discussing it. 1.5) the previous McGinn thread has 222 comments and is rather unmanageable. And McGinn has posted so much on his blog since I wrote that post that the latest discussion had nothing to do with the post itself. Second, it's possible that I am wrong about some of this stuff, and if I am, I want someone to set me straight. Especially about this alleged superpower wielded by President Shalala. I would love to know whether that is real or not. Third, it really does seem to me that this is how you give McGinn the respect he deserves. By not just taking his accuser's word for it, and making a real effort to figure out if he's made a plausible case for himself or not.

But I realize that there's such a thing as paying too much attention to this, and that it's possible that I crossed that line a long time ago, and that there's no way to actually figure out what happened, and that this post was not necessary in any way. I realize that posting this might have been the wrong thing to do. I meant it when I said I was sorry.

Anonymous said...

@11:36

...Why anyone should give a shit about this any more...

Well, for one thing, McGinn's character defamation of the student is such deplorable behavior that some of us find it both cathartic and important to reject it in some manner, to mark it as unwelcome behavior in this discipline. In some cases, this is achieved via mocking. In others it occurs by pointing out the various ways in which he is obviously being incredibly unfair and unkind to the student, whatever the details turn out to be). In still others (e.g. the present post from Mr. Zero), it occurs by poking holes in his flimsy defense.

Collectively pointing fingers with a self-satisfied, warm feeling in our hearts isn't going to make the profession any less sexist.

I disagree. As a young woman in the field, I feel a lot more comfortable entering a discipline in which the voices impugning McGinn for his horrific behavior are louder and more numerous than the voices defending his behavior. By welcoming people like me into the field and taking a stand that bullshit of this sort is unwelcome, the finger-pointers are at least diluting the concentration of sexism in philosophy, if for no other reason than that, if I remain in the field, that's one more non-sexist.

Moreover, I certainly hope the outcry against this behavior puts some would-be predators/harassers on notice that similar shenanigans will not be forgiven by the philosophical community. It may not make these would-be predators less sexist deep down in their hearts, but I don't really care as much about what's going on deep down in their hearts as I care about what sort of comments/suggestions are being made to and about vulnerable members of our community.

Anonymous said...

It is important to note that there was, around a week ago, a correction in the Chronicle , as follows.

"A blurb in Monday's Academe Today incorrectly described the nature of a
student's complaint about Colin McGinn, a former professor at the
University of Miami. She accused him of inappropriate behavior, not
sexual harassment."

Also, the Wikipedia article on McGinn today states, "There were no formal charges of sexual harassment though McGinn had failed to report a consensual (non-sexual) relationship with the student."

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing BerkeleyGirl comments quickly and supportively on all of McGinn's blog posts. Otherwise I'd never believe a word of them.

11:36 said...

@Zero,

I'm not accusing you of anything, and I can definitely see where you're coming from. That being said, I believe he is guilty of something worthy of punishment, and I don't think it's a mere presumption. There is evidence after all. Of course, I don't know exactly what he is guilty of or whether the "punishment" fits the crime, and I don't think we're going to get anywhere with that discussion.

@3:50

Point taken. I do think it's an empirical matter and that my guess that too much exposure would be bad might be unfounded.

I do think we are giving the case too much attention, though, and that this can potentially harm the victim in this particular case. Again, I could be wrong about this, though.

Anonymous said...

McGinn has made several threats of litigation against anyone who uses the term sexual harassment, even though that's what happened. It's unfortunate the university, and all the evidence needed to bury him, is conveniently under a gag order. He gets to say whatever he wants about the graduate student and the situation, and no one can speak up for fear of his ridiculous and blantant retaliation. I hope the graduate student leaves philosophy, I certainly would after this bullshit treatment.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of things I still don't understand about the McGinn case, here's one that's bothered me:

McGinn claims, in at least one of his blog posts, that the University "conducted a lengthy investigation of the case, including interviews with the student and examination of email records from both parties, and they still failed to come up with any charge of sexual harassment of any kind." However, I was under the impression (from the CHE article, perhaps) that McGinn prevented a full investigation by resigning.

I realize that these are mutually consistent. I suppose the tension lies in what I perceive to be McGinn's implicit suggestion that the UM performed a sufficiently thorough investigation such that, if there had been any misdeed, the University would have charged him with sexual harassment. And this is not consistent with the claim that the University would have launched a full investigation had McGinn not resigned when he did.

I strongly suspect that McGinn is exaggerating the extent of the original investigation, but I'd be very interested to know if there is information out there (that I've missed) that speaks to this.

On a different note, McGinn's latest blog post continues his incredibly nasty assault on the student. He really is entirely tone deaf to how poorly he's presenting himself, every step of the way. (He claims not to be reading the online discussions, but I don't believe him -- hi Colin!) I hope someone else will post a more eloquent explanation than I could hope to give for why her seeming friendly and well-disposed toward him, in her emails, is perfectly consistent with his sexually harassing her in that same email exchange.

Anonymous said...

"She accused him of inappropriate behavior, not sexual harassment."

Is "inappropriate behavior" an actual category recognized by U Miami? Is it, and why might be, subsumed under the heading of "disclosure of consensual relationships"?

Anonymous said...

@4:04

And now McGinn says the student never alleged harassment, or even "discomfort," about the emails in her official statement. I had understood things differently up to this point.

But, how can this be reconciled with the student's complaint? She complained about something, so what? The Chronicle now says it was "inappropriate behavior."

Please help me understand what the difference is, and why it is serious enough to terminate or force a resignation, despite not constituting harassment.

And I make no claim to understand what happened.

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. This is priceless:

9:08 am: "I would like to wind this down, and I hope this is my last post on this disagreeable topic (but you never know)."

He lasted an entire 9.5 hours before posting about this again.

Oh, Colin, how we admire you for your restraint!

Anonymous said...

@6:39 p.m.

Mocking the accused is as bad as mocking the complainant.

Anonymous said...

The student likely complained about inappropriate messages and behavior that made her uncomfortable. McGinn can claim anything he wants in his blog to clear his name, even if its false, because the university, and clearly no one else, is going to call him out for it.

Anonymous said...

Mocking the accused is as bad as mocking the complainant.

No, it isn't.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your efforts to make some sense of all this stuff, Mr. Zero. You're a better man than I am.

But I continue to be puzzled over the idea that McGinn might have been accused under the category of disclosing consensual relationships, even on the story offered up by the comment you linked to.

Is it really plausible that the student in question came to the administration, accused McGinn of improprieties, told them it wasn't consensual, but that they then told her, no, you've got to prove it wasn't consensual before we will even investigate it under the category of sexual harassment (or "inappropriate behavior")? In what other institution does a charge of sexual harassment require positive proof upfront of a non-consensual relationship?

If I had to hazard a guess about this, it would be that the record showed that the student was indeed very much involved in a consensual relation with McGinn of some sort, so much so that it made it very difficult to see the things he wrote as being sexual harassment. If that record didn't exist, I'd think that sexual harassment would be the natural charge to bring.

Now maybe the university simply tried to whitewash things for the time being because he was such a big deal in the department, and started out with the lesser charge, even if it made little sense. But, otherwise, I'm not sure why they would have gone the consensual relationship route, all things considered.

Anonymous said...

I'm anonymous of 7:18.

I just read the comments McGinn made most recently on his blog.

His description does at least make sense, and seems consistent with what I had speculated in my previous post.

Of course, the truth of it may be another matter.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't McGinn in effect demonstrated that he holds no claim to office of "Genius"? Maybe by "Great Erudition Notwithstanding Idiotic Unrelenting Self-aggrandizement"? The latter I would vote for Berkeleygirl. As Berkeley or a stand-in would have imagined her.

Anonymous said...

"Mocking the accused is as bad as mocking the complainant."

I'm not mocking him *because* he's the accused. I'm mocking him because he keeps asking that everyone stop talking about this, and then can't wait to start taking about it again.

If he wants the story to die down, he should stop talking about it all the time. And posting about it multiple times a day. And being the person to make the most comments on his own posts.

-6:39

Anonymous said...

McGinn can not claim what occurred was not sexual harassment, it is demonstrably false. Let me explain why.

McGinn is an employ of the University of Miami.

UM's sexual harassment policy does not leave room for ambiguity:

"sexual harassment includes making unwanted sexual advances and request for sexual favors where submission to the conduct is made a term or condition of employment *or* the conduct has the purpose *or effect* of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment."

Notice the two disjunctions in asterisks. McGinn's conduct has had the effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance, and has had the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile and offensive working environment.

His intentions are irrelevant. The RA's initial reception of the conduct is irrelevant. Ultimately, the conduct has had a negative effect, UM is his employer, he has violated their sexual harassment policy.

In addition, among the examples of sexual harassment UM's policy lists:

"Sexual innuendoes, comments or sexual remarks about clothing, body or sexual activities"

and

"Written messages, letters, words, comments, or poems of a suggestive nature"

McGinn has admitted to both of these things.

Let's stop pretending like sexual harassment is murky and subjective. This definition is operational and unambiguous.

http://www.miami.edu/index.php/equality_administration/sexual_harassment-1/recognizing_sexual_harassment/

Anonymous said...

@7:17

I take it you mean, he's guilty, so he deserves it. I didn't think we established that yet, but maybe you know something I don't.

@8:10

Mocking an ego-tripping accuser who won't stop blogging is wrong. Mocking an accuser who you find lacks credibility in light of internet gossip is wrong. Why is it different for the accused?

Anonymous said...

McGinn's conduct has had the effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance, and has had the effect of creating an intimidating, hostile and offensive working environment.

His intentions are irrelevant. The RA's initial reception of the conduct is irrelevant. Ultimately, the conduct has had a negative effect, UM is his employer, he has violated their sexual harassment policy.


Thank you Anon 8:53, this seems to me exactly right. (Indeed, I'd add that not only is the RA's initial reception irrelevant, but her continued reception, until reporting the matter, is irrelevant as well.)

I find anything resembling an apology for McGinn's behavior, or any attempt to raise serious epistemic doubt on the matter, thoroughly perverse.

RMM said...

It seems to me to make sense if you view McGinn as resigning "in exchange for" the charge of failure to disclose, rather than resigning "because of" his failure to disclose. This is purely speculative, but I can imagine a scenario in which the RA approaches the administration with allegations of inappropriate conduct, McGinn replies to those allegations by saying that the relationship was consensual, and then the administration responds: "We have disclosure rules precisely to formalize such consent and protect our faculty and staff from charges of misconduct; you didn't disclose." The negotiation, in confrontation with the evidence and the promise that the RA's allegations of inappropriate behavior would be pursued with a view to whether they rose to the level of harassment, then resulted in McGinn offering a resignation in exchange for the administration settling on the lesser of the two charges. Since the conduct itself wasn't in dispute, McGinn was going to have to own up to having done one of those two things wrong (failure to disclose, or sexual harassment), and he chose the one that better preserved his reputation. It also allows him to say, factually, that he was never "accused" of sexual harassment.

Anonymous said...

"Mocking an accuser who you find lacks credibility in light of internet gossip is wrong."

I don't think he lacks credibility. I think he lacks self-control. I mock him not because he is the victim of internet gossip, but because he is the *source* of most of the internet gossip he claims to want to end.

I have no idea what he might or might not have done. But I find his actions absolutely amusing and idiotic.

Anonymous said...

He gets to say whatever he wants about the graduate student and the situation, and no one can speak up for fear of his ridiculous and blantant retaliation.

But let's keep in mind that CM is mostly harming himself by going on about it in the way he is. I hope that the graduate student's reputation hasn't been harmed much, because what CM says about her should have no credibility at this point.

Anonymous said...

2:46 am seems to me to be a plausible scenario. It tracks what has been published, the picture of McGinn that he himself has painted in his blog posts, and how many university administrations operate.

Anonymous said...

I would go a step further. To me it seems that 2:46 AM has the most plausible reckoning of the evidence that has come to light.

Anonymous said...

@2:46am

Exactly. CM's resignation, in my opinion, was most likely an informal "plea bargain".

I tend to be sceptical about plea bargains in the criminal justice system. But in this instance you have a well-off professor of high esteem. It's harder for me to think he was railroaded.

You then add to it that his posts make it clear that the facts of the CHE article are not incorrect. He hasn't admitted to the "muscular legs" comment yet, but has admitted to the "hand job" and "sex 3 times" emails. He is happy to do that because he thinks his tortured defense of "genius" and "taboo busting" is valid.

I know BerkeleyGirl agrees, but I don't... And it seems to me neither did UM.

I would add to CM's Advice post the following: taking a plea bargain in the criminal justice system is an admission of guilt and so many of us will see taking a deal from UM as an admission of wrongdoing as well, no matter how many crazy, elliptical blog posts you write defaming the RA, 40 years your junior that you made so uncomfortable that she reported your behavior to the university who subsequently took her side.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 7:18/42,

Is it really plausible that the student in question came to the administration, accused McGinn of improprieties, told them it wasn't consensual, but that they then told her, no, you've got to prove it wasn't consensual before we will even investigate it under the category of sexual harassment...

That's not what I meant, exactly. What I was trying to get at was, interpreted in the most straightforward way, a charge of sexual harassment can be sustained only if the conduct persisted despite the victim's objections. Whether they will investigate it under that category without proof is hard to say--'proof' is a strong word, and who knows what the rules are for investigative categories.

But that is less important than whether they would formally present sexual harassment charges to McGinn without some compelling evidence that the conduct persisted in spite of the RA's objections. Maybe they didn't have what they regarded as sufficient evidence to present that charge to McGinn at the earlier stages of the investigation; maybe they saw it as a sort of plea bargain, as RMM suggests. Maybe it's six of one and a half dozen of the other. I don't know what happened.

His description does at least make sense, and seems consistent with what I had speculated in my previous post.

I'm not sure I agree. McGinn's "Pertinent Facts" post leaves me wondering what she complained about--that post makes it seem like she didn't complain at all. I mean, even if the complaint was bogus, she still complained.

Anonymous said...

@6:26 AM

You are stubborn. Once again, such treatment of an accuser who lacked self-control and was a source of internet gossip would rightly face an avalanche of criticism.

Mr. Zero said...

And, if the stuff McGinn says in the "Pertinent Facts" post is true, I can't understand how Erwin and McGinn could think that any substantial portion of the CHE's reporting on his case was "very fair" to him. The CHE strongly suggests that the complaint concerned allegations of sexual misconduct, if not harassment; says that the basis for the complaint was some emails McGinn sent the student; says that in one of the emails he wrote that he had a handjob while thinking of her giving him a handjob. If McGinn's statements in the "Pertinent Facts" post are accurate, then the CHE's reporting on the case is a hatchet job from start to finish and is almost totally unfair to him. So that's an additional reason why I can't see how the "Pertinent Facts" post makes sense.

Anonymous said...

But that is less important than whether they would formally present sexual harassment charges to McGinn without some compelling evidence that the conduct persisted in spite of the RA's objections.

I still have a lot of difficulty understanding this possibility. I just think that in virtually academic institutions which are not corrupt, sexual harassment will be charged and investigated if the student emphatically denies that there was anything remotely consensual about the behavior. I just can't imagine that in a non-corrupt institution they will insist first that positive evidence be produced that it was not at all consensual. It might make sense not to sustain the charges if there is no evidence of consent, and the accused claims it was consensual -- reducing it to a case of he-said-she-said -- but the idea that the charges wouldn't even be brought and investigated without this evidence makes no sense at all.

What would explain the failure to bring sexual harassment charges? Well, a fact such as one McGinn claims -- that the student is herself in her email saying things like "Handjobs!! haha.." That is, positive evidence that she indicated no problem at all with the purportedly offensive remark.

And I think that you are placing entirely too much weight on Ervin's assertion in his letter that CHE's reporting was "very fair". That could just be his sloppy way of trying to placate CHE in the face of further reporting on the issue, or simply to appear to the outside world as being "reasonable". And God knows he could claim to be meaning just about anything by such an indefinite phrase.

I'll tell you frankly that I'm coming round to McGinn's account of things here, after his last post, which is a lot more concrete and less, well, mysterious than his previous posts.

He could be lying through his teeth, and even if he's not lying, he may deserve real reprimand for what he did, but the overall account starts to cohere, which I can't say is true for the bf's account.

Anonymous said...

If the university is under a voluntary gag order, how is Erwin allowed to write letters of support in which he writes that "this was not a case of sexual harassment"? And since Erwin can apparently say what he wants, where are the rest of the faculty?

Anonymous said...

9:38

"What would explain the failure to bring sexual harassment charges? Well, a fact such as one McGinn claims -- that the student is herself in her email saying things like "Handjobs!! haha.." That is, positive evidence that she indicated no problem at all with the purportedly offensive remark."

See University of Miami's SH policy. Her reception of the conduct is irrelevant to whether or not his behaviors constitute SH.

McGinn took a plea deal. Al Capone was officially charged with tax evasion, this fact is not evidence that he wasn't guilty of other crimes. Parties reach a resolution for many reasons, but that McGinn's behavior was sexual harassment can not reasonably be disputed.

http://www.miami.edu/index.php/equality_administration/sexual_harassment-1/recognizing_sexual_harassment/

Anonymous said...

10:17

"If the university is under a voluntary gag order, how is Erwin allowed to write letters of support in which he writes that "this was not a case of sexual harassment"? And since Erwin can apparently say what he wants, where are the rest of the faculty?"

Depending on role and initial involvement, only certain faculty members are under the University's gag order.

Others are being silenced by legal threats.

We can not know the reason for particular people's silence.

Erwin, apparently has not been served with any papers to cease and desist.

Anonymous said...

"Her reception of the conduct is irrelevant to whether or not his behaviors constitute SH."

True. But her own conduct *is* relevant to a determination of whether any such accusation has merit. And given what's coming out about the accuser's behavior toward McGinn, the accusation of sexual harassment made by her supporters is looking much less merited.

Anonymous said...

Think of it this way 10:28--an accusation that I was made uncomfortable or was placed in a hostile environment by another's comments cannot be sustained if I was myself trading similar comments back and forth with the accused. Such an accusation would look silly. And now it's beginning to look like that sort of silliness is in the offing. Of course, if the accuser never suggested sexual harassment then it is her supporters that are looking silly, not the accuser.

Anonymous said...

The UM policy doesn't say that the student's consent is irrelevant. "The conduct" referred to in the disjuncts is what was defined in the first clause, namely, "UNWANTED" sexual advances.

It is parsed this way: SH is unwanted advances (1) *where* there is a quid pro quo *or* (2) there is a purpose *or* (3) effect to harm the student's work *or* (4) create a hostile environment.

And that's sensible. To imply that WANTED sexual advances amounts to SH would be lunacy.

"sexual harassment includes making unwanted sexual advances and request for sexual favors where submission to the conduct is made a term or condition of employment *or* the conduct has the purpose *or effect* of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment."

Anonymous said...

The issue is precisely whether what occurred between McGinn and the student can count as "unwanted" on her end. And if she was giving as well as receiving, the claim that these comments were unwanted lacks merit *precisely* because her behavior belies that supposition.

Anonymous said...

To suggest that the RA was complicit is astonishing. It reveals an area of ignorance (or stupidity) on the part of McGinn and (at least some of) his apologists concerning fairly ordinary human behavior. Why don't I hit on a student who may even appear to be expressing romantic interest? Not merely because she (or he) might say 'no', but because, even if she seems to comply -- that is, seems to be "going along" with the overtures -- she may turn out not be interested at all. Most likely, she won't know at the time whether she's interested and won't know until much later. Much of our behavior is driven by this going-along with what others are doing. All of us are "going along," most of the time. (A healthy dose of social psychology might be useful to many here. You may think you know how you'd have behaved in the Milgram experiments, but, seriously, forgive me if I'm skeptical.) When an authority figure -- someone who not only wields a great deal of power over the future realization of our goals and interests, but someone we admire -- steers things in a certain direction, it feels bizarre to push back. Our initial impulse is to (again) "go along" not only in how we act, but also in how we describe the situation to ourselves. An appreciation of this is one reason why, ironically, much of McGinn's "Advice" in his recent blog post is perfectly sensible, despite the fact that he intended it to read as excessively extreme. Keep things completely on the up-and-up. Keep in mind how much power one has, as a teacher and mentor. McGinn fucked up. He's essentially agreed to nearly all of the relevant facts. His sharing with us the RA's attempts to normalize his sexual advances by responding to his emails in an accommodating way absolutely does not get him off the hook for his bad behavior. (For my own part, I regard this as a particularly insidious form of blaming the victim.) He should not have been making sexually suggestive remarks to his student, period. Sometimes nothing comes of the poor choices we make and so a large portion of our unwise decisions is lost to the haze of memory entirely. (And thank god for that.) But sometimes, as in McGinn's case, we aren't so fortunate. Moral luck is a bitch, and it's biting him on the ass.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 7:18/7:42/9:38,

Taking some of this out of order:

And I think that you are placing entirely too much weight on Ervin's assertion in his letter that CHE's reporting was "very fair".

Yeah, I thought about that, too. Erwin might have said 'very fair' as a way of trying to prevent this guy from writing more false and misleading, reputation- and career-destroying material about his friend. But the main point is, if McGinn is telling the truth, then almost all of the CHE's reporting on his case is completely wrong in a way that has caused extraordinary damage to his reputation and career. It would be wrong about: the topic of the complaint; the evidence in support of the complaint; whether the complaint had anything to do with this "handjob" stuff; whether the complaint had anything to do with his entertaining the possibility of their having sex; whether he might have been vulnerable to any further potential charges; possibly even who it was that actually complained.

If McGinn is telling the truth, he should have a really long list of complaints about the CHE's reporting, touching on practically every paragraph. If so, it would be sort of weird to make this "you're pretty fair but I have one minor problem" letter a part of his public defense, even if that's what he/Erwin said privately to the author.

I just think that in virtually academic institutions which are not corrupt, sexual harassment will be charged and investigated if the student emphatically denies that there was anything remotely consensual about the behavior.

It was investigated, by all accounts. And, by all accounts, the university thought that what it discovered was serious enough that it warranted asking him to resign.

It wasn't any sexual harassment charge, of course, but there are lots of reasons why they might not charge him, even if they had really solid evidence. Particularly if the administration was hoping to resolve the issue with a plea bargain. And, of course, plea bargaining makes tons of sense, which is why almost all convictions in the US are secured that way. Going to trial or arbitration or whatever is expensive. Getting the person to resign in exchange for not being charged with sexual harassment is much less so.

What would explain the failure to bring sexual harassment charges? Well, a fact such as one McGinn claims -- that the student is herself in her email saying things like "Handjobs!! haha.." That is, positive evidence that she indicated no problem at all with the purportedly offensive remark.

I'm sorry, but I don't agree with your assessment here. The "Pertinent Facts" post presents evidence that the RA was amenable--enthusiastic, even--about the general form of "handjob" joke. But according to the CHE, it's not that the complaint was based on the existence of "handjob" jokes generally speaking; it was a particular one: a double entendre in which one of the entendres has McGinn engaging in a sex act while contemplating her, the RA, performing a sex act on him. I find it extremely easy to imagine a person who would be generally amenable/enthusiastic about handjob puns but who would find that one highly disturbing. I think I am a person like that.

Anonymous said...

Consider:

CM starts using "hand jobs" in emails.

RA plays along a bit as she's trying to be a good sport.

Over time CM continues using "hand jobs" in more and more suggestive ways making RA uncomfortable.

RA is intimidated by the power differential and doesn't know how to put a stop to it.

RA, for the sake of argument, stops trying to be a good sport and stops playing along (CM, if he is to be believed, has given us one out of context quote so who knows).

CM persists in "hand job" emails including one that intimates he masturbated about her jerking him off.

Outside of just this email CM emails that they should have sex 3 times (as part of discussion about the limits of logical space) and makes comments in real life about her legs and clothing.

Seems like SH to me...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mr. Zero, at 12:15,for making perfect sense and pointing out the inconsistencies in McGinn's behavior/position.

Anonymous said...

slightly tangential question:

if 'berkeleygirl' isn't actually colin mcginn (or someone close to him) then how can she comment on his blog?

comments are disabled. i had an account to his blog before this ish went down and now cannot comment on any postings. but BG's comments are getting through despite commenting being disabled...

the call is coming from inside the house!

Anonymous said...

And Hi Mr. Zero,

It wasn't any sexual harassment charge, of course, but there are lots of reasons why they might not charge him, even if they had really solid evidence. Particularly if the administration was hoping to resolve the issue with a plea bargain. And, of course, plea bargaining makes tons of sense, which is why almost all convictions in the US are secured that way. Going to trial or arbitration or whatever is expensive. Getting the person to resign in exchange for not being charged with sexual harassment is much less so

But certainly in an ordinary legal case, the prosecutor will almost always bargain a plea by overcharging, rather than undercharging, with the threat of great punishment hanging over the accused if they don't agree to lesser charges. You're saying they'd do the opposite. I guess anything's possible, but I'd like to see cases in which that happens in an academic setting, rather than what's typical in a legal setting. I simply can't see the incentive to undercharge quite grossly in a case like this if one wishes to avoid an actual lawsuit -- they could simply drop all sexual harassment charges against McGinn in exchange for his resignation. Why would McGinn be less likely to resign if charged with sexual harassment (assuming there was good evidence) than if charged with refusing to disclose a consensual relationship?

As for the "handjob" email McGinn purports the student sent, there are two points. First, it's not obvious to me anyway that that email was sent before, and not after, the offending "handjob" email; maybe the timing is well enough known that we can assume that it was after, but it isn't well known to me. Second, I just don't see how such an enthusiastic (!!) response to a joke about a handjob -- which stands by itself as a double entendre of course -- isn't some kind of sign that talk about sexual things will be greeted with relish. Of course the parallel handjob joke takes it to a much higher level. But I should think that the previous enthusiasm in the use of handjob certainly sucks a lot of the poison out of the sexual harassment in the parallel handjob joke.

Look, context really does matter for such things. One can pore over a remark like the parallel handjob joke and point out still again just what it is saying, and how inappropriate it is. And no doubt a good amount of inappropriateness remains even in context. But context can materially subtract from that inappropriateness, and any genuine offense taken at the remark. And there may well be a lot more context surrounding it that subtracts even more.

As far as the fact that the university asked for his resignation, it's not clear what weight to attach to that. McGinn is claiming that it was an egregious overreach, brought about by a President who was out of control. A fair assessment? Who knows?

Anonymous said...

I wrote above,

...isn't some kind of sign that talk about sexual things will be greeted with relish.

I would have written better,

...isn't some kind of sign that some talk about sexual things will be greeted with relish.

Anonymous said...

@ 2:03 PM

Thank you for bringing your good sense to this thread.

Anonymous said...

12:35, that seems pretty right to me. I think people who are giving McGinn the benefit of the doubt because the RA sent a couple nice emails are failing to see how one can be intimidated to go along with something in these situations even if they are uncomfortable. And we have certainly seen that McGinn is very capable of intimidation...

Anonymous said...

Just to elaborate a bit on my previous response to Mr. Zero, I just don't see any reason a non-corrupt administration would do anything other than pursue the charges against a professor other than those that seem to be merited on the nature of the accusation, and the prima facie evidence in front of them.

And if the RA was in fact swearing up and down that she was deeply offended by some of McGinn's remarks, and that she was always completely opposed to him doing so, and there was no evidence to contradict those assertions, then I don't see how anything other than a charge of sexual harassment would be called for.

The notion that the administration had in mind some scheme to induce McGinn to resign and so undercharged him, rather than charging him as the prima facie evidence would suggest, just makes no sense to me.

Anonymous said...

think people who are giving McGinn the benefit of the doubt because the RA sent a couple nice emails are failing to see how one can be intimidated to go along with something in these situations even if they are uncomfortable.

I don't understand how anyone who is not themselves a creeper can fail to appreciate this point.

Hasn't everyone been in a situation in which someone is making offensive/discomforting comments of one sort or another, but you laugh awkwardly and go along with it simply to avoid a confrontation—especially when that someone is in a position of power over you?

The problem is, like many defenders of McGinn on here, creepers invariably take such nervous acquiescence as enthusiastic encouragement.

Mr. Zero said...

in an ordinary legal case, the prosecutor will almost always bargain a plea by overcharging, rather than undercharging, with the threat of great punishment hanging over the accused if they don't agree to lesser charges. You're saying they'd do the opposite.

Well, as I say, I don't really know what happened. Some people upthread have suggested that the "undercharge" might have been included as a way to allow McGinn to save face, thereby making the deal more attractive. The commenter I link to in the OP suggests that the administration had her testimony that the attention was unwelcome, but did not yet have hard evidence that she had told him so. This would seem to explain why the choice was, "resign or face further investigation," and not, "resign or face sexual harassment charges."

I don't know what happened. I don't know what the university did, or how it decided what to do. All I'm saying is, we have two stories. According to one, the university had clear evidence that McGinn had violated some rules, and had reason to suspect him of having violated more, and approached him with a sort of plea-deal/negotiated settlement offer to resign and thereby allow everyone involved to avoid a bunch of unpleasantness. Maybe they were trying to get him to resign. Or maybe they were expecting him to negotiate and were surprised when he didn't. I don't know if that's what happened, but I can follow along with the story.

The other story is, the student complained about him in order to prevent him from giving her a bad performance review, in spite of the fact that there was nothing for her to complain about and no evidence that there was. The nature and content of the complaint is unclear. Then, because the university was out to get him, they decided to charge him with a bogus, trumped-up "failure to disclose" charge even though the relationship did not require disclosure, and there's no evidence that it did. They then used this bogus charge to pressure him to resign, again, for no reason other than animus or something. He doesn't say why they were out to get him, or why they thought the student was credible, or why they ignored the evidence that she wasn't. I can't understand why anyone would do any of these things.

That doesn't mean it didn't happen. I don't know what happened.

McGinn is claiming that it was an egregious overreach, brought about by a President who was out of control.

But as far as I can tell, the power McGinn ascribes to her is made-up. Do you have any information as to whether she actually possesses this power?

Anonymous said...

"I just don't see any reason a non-corrupt administration would do anything other than pursue the charges against a professor other than those that seem to be merited on the nature of the accusation, and the prima facie evidence in front of them."

That's because you don't understand administrations. Their goal is not to prosecute. Their goal is to protect the university, particularly from lawsuits. Even lawsuits *they might want to bring*. No university wants to be involved in a lawsuit. Ever. For any reason. Even legitimate ones. Even ones involving a moral imperative. Even ones they know they can win. Universities engage in this behavior all the time; they agree to keep silent in exchange for the faculty member in question being allowed to retire without blemish (because no official charges, and no official reprimands). I have personally known of 4 different faculty at 3 different institutions who have benefitted from such deals. This happens so often, universities actually have plans in place for when it does. This is standard operating procedure. And while some say it's corrupt, others will say that it's completely legal.

"The notion that the administration had in mind some scheme to induce McGinn to resign and so undercharged him, rather than charging him as the prima facie evidence would suggest, just makes no sense to me."

That's because you don't understand goals of administration. Their goals have nothing to do with education, with morality, or with justice. Their goals are tied up in finances. These kinds of deal are the least expensive means of removing unwanted faculty from the payroll. They want to avoid the expense of a lawsuit. McGinn, by his own admission, also wanted to avoid the expense of a lawsuit. Both were successful, and got exactly what they wanted.

Anonymous said...

McGinn is claiming that it was an egregious overreach, brought about by a President who was out of control.

But as far as I can tell, the power McGinn ascribes to her is made-up. Do you have any information as to whether she actually possesses this power?


AFAICT, it's SOP to let University Presidents (and / or Boards of Regents) have the last say in personnel matters. For instance, promotion and tenure decisions. So it's plausible the President had the power to overturn the results of the Faculty Senate investigation -- whether that investigation was positive or negative for McGinn. But that she would have had *the motivation* to overturn a positive finding for McGinn is something for which we have only on McGinn's word. Such motivation would be, in my experience, very odd, and her exercise of that power, even given a strong motivation to do so, even odder. What would she gain from overturning a Faculty Senate investigation that cleared McGinn?

Anonymous said...

Pace 2:37 pm, it is 3:35 pm and not 2:03 pm who has brought common sense to this thread.

Anonymous said...

Some people seem to be missing the point about the RA's involvement in the banter between her and McGinn. Of course it's possible that she was under some kind of Stockholm Syndrome and felt pressured to "go along." That's something we can't rule out. But it sure looks a bit odd to suppose, as some have, that this is obviously a case of sexual harassment when (if) the RA was engaging in the back and forth. Sexual harassment charges are almost always qualified by what a "reasonable person" would conclude. Surely a reasonable person is going to look at the accuser's behavior when determining whether the accused's behavior counts as harassment. And talk of 'victim blaming' here is obsfucatory rhetoric. The issue is precisely whether the term 'victim' is apt.

Anonymous said...

May I ask what evidence there is—besides McGinn's self-serving assertions—that the RA "went along" with his sexual banter?

I don't mean that as a rhetorical question either. I'm honestly interested to know.

Anonymous said...

5:51

"But it sure looks a bit odd to suppose, as some have, that this is obviously a case of sexual harassment when (if) the RA was engaging in the back and forth. Sexual harassment charges are almost always qualified by what a "reasonable person" would conclude. Surely a reasonable person is going to look at the accuser's behavior when determining whether the accused's behavior counts as harassment."

None of us can assume that the details of the case that have been made public are all of the details of the case known by the University. McGinn has been controlling the story. Some have been silenced through law suits or gag orders. We should really be careful with our not-in-any-way-obfuscating-or-victim-blaming rhetoric.

Mr. Zero said...

AFAICT, it's SOP to let University Presidents (and / or Boards of Regents) have the last say in personnel matters. For instance, promotion and tenure decisions. So it's plausible the President had the power to overturn the results of the Faculty Senate investigation -- whether that investigation was positive or negative for McGinn.

To me, this seems like a really poor inference. The President has the final say on tenure & promotion decisions, so she probably also has the power to find that a tenured full professor should be terminated, for cause, when the Faculty Senate has investigated the matter and determined that no such cause exists? No.

Or, show me where it says that. Otherwise, no.

Anonymous said...

To me, this seems like a really poor inference. The President has the final say on tenure & promotion decisions, so she probably also has the power to find that a tenured full professor should be terminated, for cause, when the Faculty Senate has investigated the matter and determined that no such cause exists? No.

Or, show me where it says that. Otherwise, no.


Well, that's McGinn's claim, isn't it? That because the President had final say, he didn't want to go through with the investigation, since she would have ruled against him one way or the other.

In the first Chronicle story, Erwin, McGinn's mouthpiece, says “Colin chose to resign after he learned, or had very good reason to believe, that his tenure was going to be revoked regardless of what he did,” Mr. Erwin said. “It’s been an unfortunate situation.”

But what you're saying is that not only the motivation to do so, but also the power to do so, is imaginary. That's plausible too.

Anonymous said...

it's possible that she was under some kind of Stockholm Syndrome and felt pressured to "go along."

Yes, please, 5:51, let's definitely avoid any obsfuscatory rhetoric. For of course "Stockholm Syndrome" is no doubt a charitable description of attempting to maintain a friendly and easy-going veneer when your faculty mentor begins making bewilderingly off-color suggestions.

Anonymous said...

I fail to see how the phrase is a problem 8:30. It's use and the use of "victim blaming" are importantly different here. With or without the phrase "Stockholm syndrome," the point is that it is possible the accuser felt pressured to "go along." That's to agree with what the accuser's supporters are alleging. But to characterize those who question the putatively obviously harassing character of the case as "blaming the victim" is precisely to *obscure* the fact that part of what is in contention here is whether or not the accuser is a victim in any meaningful sense.

Anonymous said...

The faculty manual at the university of Miami:
https://umshare.miami.edu/web/wda/facultysenate/FacultyManual.pdf

Pay special attention to section C15: Termination of Appointment for Cause

From my reading, the president has a hell of a lot of power in this process.

Here is on definition of cause: (c) Personal conduct that substantially impairs the individual's fulfillment of institutional responsibilities.

Being unable to fulfill your duties to evaluate a student do to an amorous relationship and not reporting it is something that could easily count.

Reading this manual has been very enlightening.

As for all the talk of lawyers. Here's the thing, the University probably has lawyers on staff that get paid no matter what. McGinn has to pay for an attorney. The university doesn't want bad publicity and McGinn doesn't want to pay an attorney a year's worth of pay. This thing ends up getting settled the way it does. It makes perfect sense, and McGinn's story about the President doesn't seem unreasonable at all.

Anonymous said...

Section C15.2 from the manual:

(c)COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS. The Committee should make recommendations to the President in accordance with the procedures and within the time limits specified in Section B4.9 of the Bylaws. If the Committee recommends that termination proceedings should begin, the President may commence the action under the following procedures. If the Committee fails to submit its recommendation within 30 academic201 days, or if the Committee's recommendation is favorable to the faculty member, the President may nonetheless go forward with the following proceedings if the President is convinced that formal termination for cause proceedings should be initiated.

Section C15.4:
The parties to the formal termination for cause proceedings shall consist of the faculty member and the President or a designee. The parties may appear and be represented by counsel during the formal proceedings.

Section C15.5 Suspension of the faculty member involved during the proceedings is justified only if the President believes that immediate harm to the faculty member or others is threatened by continuance. Such suspension should be with pay.

If you read this document and think that the President doesn't have a lot of pull, then you HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA how administration works. They have all the power EVEN WHEN a faculty member has tenure. That with no union and private, and it gets worse. I bet this doesn't happen at a public university where the faculty are unionized.

kaz said...

The President has the final say on tenure & promotion decisions, so she probably also has the power to find that a tenured full professor should be terminated, for cause, when the Faculty Senate has investigated the matter and determined that no such cause exists? No.

Actually, I think it's common at universities for firing power, hiring power, and promoting power to reside in the same body.
As 3:40 intimates, really the final authority is probably the board of regents -- or in the case of Miami, the Board of Trustees, since Miami is private. That's almost surely true, no matter what the faculty rules say, since the faculty rules have no authority over the Board of Trustees. What's common at private universities is for some high exec to sign off on any personnel decision, and then send it to the Board for approval at their annual or semi-annual meetings.

I don't say this is what in fact happens at Miami, but it wouldn't be surprising. The inference is not poor, IMHO.

Anonymous said...

I'd like everyone to reflect on the way that sexual harassment procedures proceed.

A tenured professor who makes a 'first mistake' will receive certain kinds of sanctions: time without pay, losing of chairs or other positions, etc

There is very good reason to believe that these are not the first charges against McGinn within the University. But since records to other cases would be closed we have no way of knowing.

It's a reasonable inference (which Laurie Schrage points out in her Chronicle letter) that other charges exist. Anyone with any familiarity of how Universities handle these things would think that McGinn was asked to resign (or threatened with losing tenure) as evidence of a preexisting pattern.

And a pattern of complaints from students might also explain why the president was so keen to see McGinn go. It's a PR/legal nightmare to continue to give a professor access to students if he/she has been accused of wrongdoing by several students.

Take it with a grain of salt, but we should all remember that there is little we know about the case and so many things that could be going on. Trusting that the details that are public are the only relevant details is a big mistake.

Anonymous said...

I don't know.

Whether CM did something wrong or not, his blog posts are really making him seem like an insufferable jerk.

Being (or not as the case may be) inappropriate with a young woman that is your subordinate is not some deep metaphysical puzzle. All his blog posts are written in riddles and refer to high-flying philosophical theories and concepts.

His latest post is a prime example. Rather than saying "I think people shouldn't rush to judgment on this. You don't have all the facts!"

He accuses those of us who think he probably was in the wrong of being the enemies of rationality itself!

Come on...

Anonymous said...

McGinn's blog post for today is a perfect example of his expertise for irony and wit.

To paraphrase:

'My critics are irrational ideologues, while I and my supports have demonstrated pure objective rationality.'

Too funny. I think we should all take McGinn's inability to judge how he is being received by the world to be a good indication of his inability to judge how he was being received by his graduate student. This man is not someone who is sensitive to his audience or has the ability to gauge the thoughts and feelings of others.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 9:53,

Pay special attention to section C15: Termination of Appointment for Cause. From my reading, the president has a hell of a lot of power in this process.

I did, and I agree.

Here is on definition of cause: (c) Personal conduct that substantially impairs the individual's fulfillment of institutional responsibilities. Being unable to fulfill your duties to evaluate a student do to an amorous relationship and not reporting it is something that could easily count.

Again, I agree. But I take it that McGinn does not. Or, at least, he doesn't agree that his conduct in this case counts. What he claims to be worried about is the President firing him even after being exonerated in the disciplinary hearing. I can't see where the President has been granted this power. That doesn't mean she hasn't, but if she has I'd like to see it.

Hi 9:58,

(c)COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS. The Committee should make recommendations to the President in accordance with the procedures and within the time limits specified in Section B4.9 of the Bylaws.

If you read the original post, you know I read § B4.9. (Of course, if you didn't read the OP I don't blame you at all.) If you read § B4.9, you know that if the disciplinary committee finds the defendant not guilty of misconduct, then the charges are dismissed and nothing happens. (If, on the other hand, the committee finds that misconduct has occurred, the case goes to the President, who will determine sanctions. And it seems like the President has a lot of latitude when it comes to determining the sanctions.) But I can't see where it says she can sanction the professor in the absence of a finding of misconduct. If it says that and I missed it, I would appreciate it if you would show me where.

If the Committee fails to submit its recommendation within 30 academic201 days, or if the Committee's recommendation is favorable to the faculty member, the President may nonetheless go forward with the following proceedings if the President is convinced that formal termination for cause proceedings should be initiated.

This seems to me to say that the President has the power to insist that a disciplinary hearing be held. It does not seem to me to say that the President can insist that this hearing result in her preferred outcome, or to apply sanctions in the absence of a guilty verdict.

If you read this document and think that the President doesn't have a lot of pull, then you HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA how administration works.

What makes you think that I don't think the President has a lot of pull? What I am sort of skeptical of is whether the President has the specific power McGinn attributes to her, which is the power to overrule the faculty senate disciplinary committee and fire tenured professors for cause when the disciplinary committee says no such cause exists. Does she have that power? Which regulation grants it?

Hi kaz,

Actually, I think it's common at universities for firing power, hiring power, and promoting power to reside in the same body. ...really the final authority is probably ... the Board of Trustees, since Miami is private. That's almost surely true, no matter what the faculty rules say, since the faculty rules have no authority over the Board of Trustees.

I'm no lawyer, so I could be wrong about this, but I sort of don't think so. As a tenured professor, McGinn has a contract with the University that determines the terms of his employment, and some of the details of that agreement are specified in the faculty manual, including procedures and criteria for discipline and promotion and stuff. I don't see how, legally, the Board of Trustees can toss that contract out the window just because they're the Trustees.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting...McGinn has taken down his post of "pertinent facts." Could it be that he lied, or is finally being reprimanded?

Anonymous said...

7:47

'Pertinent Facts' is not the first of McGinn's posts to disappear down the memory hole.

Anonymous said...

McGinn - a 'plea for calm' coming from the most outspoken, sporadic, and unprofessional of all those involved.

Someone needs to take his own advice.

Anonymous said...

Zero,

I have been on a university personnel committee. I doubt you have. Let me share with you an example of a real case that from the inside makes perfect sense, but from the outside is odd. This will comport with my reading of the UM faculty handbook and how the president interacts with the board members.

A faculty member makes a threat to student A about student B on social media. This occurred after the end of the semester and neither student was enrolled in a class by the faculty member.

Student A tells student B, and convinces B to call the campus police. Campus police ask the student if he feels threatened. He said "no" and the cops said, then there is nothing we can do. So he changes his mind, and an inquiry is held.

The faculty member made some derogatory remarks about student B to student B relating to his ethnicity and intelligence.

The Provost and President were so enraged by this, that they told the head of the union that they didn't care that this was a first offense. They were going to fire him. Due process it all you want, they told him flat out, we are going to fire you. Sue us if you want, but you are gone.

And what happened. The faculty member was barred from campus for the spring term WITH pay, and then quit. No law suit, no more investigation. No nothing. Just go away. The union wanted to fight it, but the faculty member realized it was a no win situation.

So, the fact that many of the commenters on this blog have never served on search committees, tenure committees, or personnel committees, makes you unaware of how these things really work.

If a President of a university wants to fire a faculty member and that President has a good relationship with the board, then there is a very good chance that the faculty member is gone. Ideally they will quit of their own accord with little noise, but they will be gone.

No one new why this guy left from our campus. As a member of the committee that was looking into it, we were not allowed to talk about it, but the penalty for the behavior was, in my view, far too harsh for what was actually said and the threat that was actually made. But it cost him his job, and ultimately his career.

So McGinn's claims about the president and just resigning makes so much sense to me. I have seen it before. When very powerful people get mad at you, life can go to shit. (And that's what the RA, I believe, feared.)

kaz said...

I'm no lawyer, so I could be wrong about this, but I sort of don't think so. As a tenured professor, McGinn has a contract with the University that determines the terms of his employment, and some of the details of that agreement are specified in the faculty manual, including procedures and criteria for discipline and promotion and stuff. I don't see how, legally, the Board of Trustees can toss that contract out the window just because they're the Trustees.

I see -- yes, that may be right. What kind of document is the "Faculty Manual"? At my (private) university, there are two documents neither of which has exactly that name, and both of which have names sort of close to that. One of them would be binding on the Board of Trustees and the other would not.

Also, I think I had lost track of exactly what the question was. I agree with you that given the way the procedure is spelled out, the President would not have the power to dismiss someone whom the Senate had found not to be guilty of the relevant wrongdoing. (She would, I think, have the converse power to overrule a 'guilty' finding.)

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 9:37,

I have been on a university personnel committee. I doubt you have. Let me share with you an example of a real case... So McGinn's claims about the president and just resigning makes so much sense to me.

I didn't mean to dispute this point, I don't think. I think that McGinn's actual situation was that he had every reason to resign. But the case you describe--and I understand that you have under-described it and why--seems like one in which there actually was misconduct, and there actually was a hearing (informal?), and there actually was a finding of guilt. Or, there would have been if they'd had a formal hearing. (It's hard to tell from what you say exactly what happened.) The "overreach" (and I am inclined to agree with you that the penalty you describe was not warranted) occurred (or had been threatened) at the penalty phase. Do I have that right?

Because if I have it approximately right, then that fits with my understanding of the procedures at Miami. The faculty senate investigates, and decides whether to hold a hearing. If they decide not to, the President can make them hold one anyway. If they find that misconduct occurred, the President imposes sanctions, and she has broad latitude about which sanctions to impose.

It seems to me that, based on what he has admitted to having done, McGinn had a lot to worry about if his case went forward. But not exactly for the reason McGinn says he was worried. He says he was worried because even if the faculty senate disciplinary panel had a hearing, and the hearing determined that his behavior did not constitute misconduct, he was still going to be fired by the president, who he says has the power to overrule the panel, unilaterally find him guilty of misconduct, and then terminate his employment.

It's this last bit that I'm skeptical of. That seems like an extraordinary power, and it seems like if the President had it, there would be something somewhere that said so.

Hi kaz,

What kind of document is the "Faculty Manual"?

The UM Faculty Manual says this about itself: "Our Faculty Manual plays a vital role in the life of the University. For the faculty, it sets forth principles and procedures which protect our academic freedom, specifies our rights to participate in the governance of the University, and establishes the Faculty Senate. Its provisions are part of a faculty member’s contract with the University."

Anonymous said...

9:37 here.

Zero, what he did was say to one person about another that he was going to cause harm. Not much wrong doing there. He then, and I don't think I made this clear, uttered something rude and unpleasant to the student -- and I didn't make this clear -- via social media as well. Not in person, and it wasn't the n-word.

The goods they have on McGinn were far worse. This student wasn't being supervised by the faculty member. In fact, he never spoke to the student in person.

And the student admitted on several occasions that "he didn't really feel threatened." Hardly as clear as the evidence that McGinn had.

The harm and the wrongdoing were very low on the harm scale. But the admin freaked out, and off he went. I know of two other cases where faculty were encouraged to resign, and they did b/c the financial and emotional costs of keeping the job are just too high. Even when the wrong done isn't something that warrants this kind of treatment.

Given that I have been a faculty member for fewer than 15 years and have seen this several times, I can see why some high profile people would speak out for McGinn. I am sure administration go a bit power hungry and want to get rid of people. That's the nature of power. And some people who can fight against it do, like the big names.

So don't discount at all the claims that the President wanted him out and was going to do what ever it took. That doesn't surprise me at all. Tough on faculty easy on boosters and football coaches and mortgage bankers is the way Donna S. rolls.

Anonymous said...

9:37/12:46, you make a really good point; thank you. This helps me to understand a bit better why some people are supporting McGinn even though it seems pretty likely to me that he's a serial sexual harasser. Of course you can be a serial sexual harasser and still be targeted by a president/administration that's overly harsh toward faculty misconduct.

Still, I've been having a hard time making sense of the attitudes of people who see this whole affair differently than I do, and although some of those attitudes will probably never make sense to me, your comments help quite a bit with interpreting some views on the "other side."

Anonymous said...

@2:35 PM

To be fair: Is there a single comment on this blog "supporting" McGinn? There are no Berkeleygirls here. At least 99% of the comments fall under either:

(a) I found him guilty upon reading the first headline.

(b) there's a presumption of innocence until the facts are in, even given a major-to-extreme suspicion that he was harassing her.

Why is this (b) so hard to understand? Is it because you operate under a presumption of guilt that we refuse to acknowledge?

Anonymous said...

5:38, please re-read my comment (I'm 2:35). I spoke of people supporting McGinn, which is exactly what Pinker and others writing letters on his behalf have done.

Anonymous said...

I don't think people understand FERPA, even Leiter.

The only thing that could even seem to violate FERPA (releasing info about a student's academic record) was that she had an academic failing. (Really vague and since her identity is not know publicly, no violation.)

The content of an email can be considered part of her academic record, but even in this case, it doesn't seem like it is a violation of FERPA.

What this looks like to me is people trying to use FERPA to strike back at McGinn and it is a real stretch to get a FERPA violation out of his blog posts.

Perhaps a FERPA explanatory post is in order.

Anonymous said...

I didn't presume CM was guilty of sexual harassment until he admitted to it on his blog.

What I don't understand is what people think sexual harassment is if not sending your subordinate sexually charged emails and suggesting they sleep with you...

Anonymous said...

http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/07/philosophers-call-on-university-of-miami-to-defend-the-student-in-the-mcginn-case.html

Anonymous said...

7:0, if you had read the entire post by Leiter you'd understand McGinn' s violation of FERPA is a small part of how he's acting wrongly. the main thing is that he's engaged in retaliatory acts against a student who made a complaint about his behavio. its not to get back at McGinn, its to point out his morally repugnant behavior and take a stand against it.

and I'm inclined to to think Leitet, a well educated and careful lawyer, knows the details of FERPA...

Anonymous said...

@7:36. I did read it all and carefully. There is a hell of a lot of FERPA talk in there as part of the wrongdoing, and I think much of it wrong. We have a yearly one hour program on FERPA that is mandatory.

And I love Leiter, but he is a law professor, and not a practicing lawyer. And just because he is a professor doesn't mean he knows all the rules of FERPA unless he has studied it or the University of Chicago has mandated reviews of it, which I doubt.

I get the retaliatory stuff for sure, but the FERPA bit, not at all.

Anonymous said...

It's notable that the department chair at Miami has signed the petition asking the university to protect the student.Beyond the commendable gesture of solidarity with the student, what are we to make of that? What exactly is he asking the administration to do? He and Thomasson are the only ones in that department who signed. I wonder how one should interpret the silence of the other Miami faculty?

Anonymous said...

Jeez, I dunno. I mean, Brian Leiter is a distinguished law professor, but that doesn't qualify him to know what FERPA is.

Oh, I know. Has anyone had a one-hour program about FERPA? That would settle it.

(Even better would be if someone read the Wikipedia entry on FERPA, but that's probably too much to ask.)

Anonymous said...

McGinn's letter defending himself today strikes me a spot on.

Anonymous said...

If you find that Bonnie Mann was complicit in allowing a predator to prey on students, you find this because you are relying on inference, precedence, and some understanding of the patterns of predators--not because you know the specifics of individual cases.

You can then reflect on Thomasson/Bueno/Siegel and the years in which (always female) students worked closely with McGinn. The grad student whom we know of cannot be (via inference, precedence, and some understanding of the patterns of predators) the first.

So then we in the profession need to seriously, very seriously, ask ourselves: why this endemic, systemic, "culture of accommodation"? If we grant that our profession is rife with sexual predators, then we must also grant that our profession is rife with predator-enablers, predator-protectors, predator-apologists (Erwin comes to mind). As such the recent grad student was more likely than not one in a line of sheep thrown to that wolf. There then exists a responsibility to discuss accommodation of abuse (not all abuse is sexual) in the discipline.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder how one should interpret the silence of the other Miami faculty?"

Not all of them have been silent. Erwin supports him.

Anonymous said...

McGinn's letter is spot on...really?He is basically claiming everyone who is standing up for the student, and know details of her complaints, are lying. And that his stating she is a liar, vindictive, a psychopath, greedy and all those other things isn't retaliation, they were necessary so he could save his poor damaged image. Everyone other than him is lying, even though the department just published a letter of support as well...

Anonymous said...

CM's posts today are pretty reasonable and for the first time in all of this I feel a little sorry for him.

What's odd to me is how little he understands how he's brought most of this on himself.

First off, in my opinion (based on CM's own testimony on his own blog), in the RA and her boyfriend's opinion, in the UM administration's opinion and at least in their feeling comfortable as journalists to report it, the CHE's opinion. CM committed sexual harassment.

He took a plea bargain and stepped down and so has very little basis to defend himself, in my opinion.

This probably could have gone without being a national story. But CM was/is a very well known person in the field and the problem of sexual harassment in philosophy is an important issue that should be reported on.

I think CM has brought most of this on himself by his defenses which, again in my opinion, do try to smear the RA.

If he had wanted to defend his reputation, he would have been much better served by stating that he pursued, what he admits is, an unorthodox mentoring approach. That on reflection, he understands why that mentoring approach made the RA uncomfortable. That he is sorry for that. And move on.

Everyone makes mistakes, and despite some earlier comments on this blog, what CM did is nothing like Sandusky, etc. If he had given a quick mea culpa, rather than trying to pretend he did nothing wrong, despite all the evidence, I think most people would have forgiven him and after a short hiatus, he could have returned to a post at a perfectly respectable university somewhere.

Anonymous said...

"If we grant that our profession is rife with sexual predators...."

I am not granting that antecedent!!! It is hysterical and irresponsibly hyperbolic.

Our profession is rife with men. Sure. It might even be rife with sexist men. Fine. But sexual predators! Get a grip! If it is RIFE with them, then I will be the first to sign a list demanding others out these PREDATORS!

Rife. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

8:05, your comments strike me as reasonable, except for the fact that McGinn seems like the sort of person whose tendency toward serial sexual harassing is tied up with his inability to understand another person's experience. He doesn't express regret and concern for the people he's hurt because he's the sort of person who thoughtlessly hurts them in the first place.

Anonymous said...

McGinn:

"What was I to do—say nothing? I owed it to my grandchildren to clear my name. But isn’t this all painfully obvious?"

Um...maybe you should have been thinking of your grandkids, wife, family and friends before you emailed your graduate student about hand jobs and sex in your office. That's pretty obvious to the rest of us, I gather.

Anonymous said...

Luckily for Colin, and us all, BerkeleyGirl is always able to comment (despite commenting being disabled on the blog) to offer some reasonable thoughts.

But that should come as no surprise - She's (clearly) a woman. Her well thought out responses are just demonstrating her appreciation of subtlety and nuance, and her greater emotional and imaginative range.

http://mcginn.philospot.com/index.php?story=story130608-090333

Anonymous said...

Some Smokers may be interested in this primer:

http://www.naceweb.org/public/ferpa0808.htm

Anonymous said...

The baseless speculation of 7:36 and 9:08 are just the sort of thing that require McGinn to defend himself. We're supposed to rely on how the woefully underdescribed situation "seems" to people like this in order to draw a conclusion that McGinn is a "serial sexual harasser" supported by a "culture of accommodation" for "sexual predators."

Basic norms of epistemic and moral justice are being run over roughshod in this.

Anonymous said...

I asked two days ago on this very thread "what evidence there is—besides McGinn's self-serving assertions—that the RA "went along" with his sexual banter?"

Never got an answer on that...which is itself an answer I suppose.

I'd like to be charitable to those defending McGinn, but their eager willingness to take his version of events as probable regardless of his obvious incentives to lie makes charity rather difficult. The fact that McGinn has changed his story more than once and offers patently absurd explanations for his sexual comments to the RA makes it even more difficult.

There are also statements like this:

At least 99% of the comments fall under either: (a) I found him guilty upon reading the first headline. (b) there's a presumption of innocence until the facts are in, even given a major-to-extreme suspicion that he was harassing her.

That's a nice little strawman ya got there.

Unless the NSA steps up and releases the emails, "the facts" will never be in, in large part because of whatever bargain McGinn made with UM. Insisting on 'b' is therefore objectively equivalent to insisting on McGinn's innocence simpliciter.

Anonymous said...

If he had wanted to defend his reputation, he would have been much better served by stating that he pursued, what he admits is, an unorthodox mentoring approach.

I agree that this would have been a much better way to handle the PR disaster from McGinn's own perspective, but do you seriously think that's all this was?

You're right, McGinn is no Sandusky, but if some old man had neighborhood kids reaching into his front pocket for candy, I doubt anyone would be sympathetic to an "unorthodox mentoring approach" explanation.

McGinn's "mentoring approach" seems to have custom fashioned precisely to promote sexual contact between him and his female students. The sexual harassment was thus a feature, not a bug in the system.

Anonymous said...

"McGinn's 'mentoring approach' seems to have custom fashioned precisely to promote sexual contact between him and his female students. The sexual harassment was thus a feature, not a bug in the system."

Anon 11:31 has it sussed. McGinn's "mentoring approach" is not a revolutionary pedagogical approach; it's textbook grooming behavior.

To be sure, McGinn is no Sandusky, however he clearly has designed this entirely bizarre student-teacher/mentee-mentor relationship such that the employment of inapprorpiate and/or offensive behavior is introduced merely as a matter of course, : It's not bad, it's just how this works--you'll get used to it. And then you'll be a genius.

It's sick and it beggars belief that some seem to be incapable of seeing the deeply problematic nature of the Genius Project *as McGinn himself has described it.*

Anonymous said...

11:31am

Absolutely, I don't think this is all it was. I personally find it hard to believe that the only untowards activities CM engaged in are the two that he admits to (or even the three or four in the CHE article).

But I think that the "I'm sorry if you were offended" approach would have been the best one for CM here.

I, for one, would have suspected he was guilty (since he resigned), but left CM some benefit of the doubt and figured that stepping down was punishment enough and hope he finds something good to do next.

Instead I am thoroughly convinced he is guilty since he has admitted to it (although he of course thinks his admissions are actually defenses) and would be happy to see him leave the profession for good and with a cloud over him.

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that McGinn blames the student for making things public when she hasn't said anything. and I highly doubt that any of her defenders are responsible for making it public, given they have an knowledge of the type of person McGinn is. I think it was likely him considering he can't keep his mouth shut, or take responsibility for anything.

Anonymous said...

Check out Leiter, those that haven't. a majority of the department stands behind the graduate student, faculty included. good for them, and that's enough to make me think McGinn did something wrong, considering I'm sure they have access to both sides of things.

Anonymous said...

I'm close to the student and her "representative," and I can say that it wasn't either of them that went public with this. She was beyond stressed to find out an article was being written, and he only spoke up to defend her against the ridiculous story McGinn has been weaving. He just won't stop defaming them in his blog.

Anonymous said...

Leiter's new post with the support letter from UM faculty, graduate students, and alum states that he received the letter "prior to yesterday's open letter" (which was posted on Feminist Philosophers, not Leiter Reports, it's worth noting). Does that mean that Leiter had previously refused to post such a letter? Why would he do that?

It looks like there is a non-zero possibility that the folks at UM have wanted to show their support for some time, but haven't been able to find an outlet to express said support.

Can someone explain this to me? The best explanation (besides a typo or something) that I can think is that Leiter was worried publishing the letter would constitute a tacit endorsement of its contents. But even that seems a bit strange, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Have you considered the simpler explanation that Leiter didn't have time/hadn't yet gotten around to posting it when the other letter was posted at Feminist Philosophers, but that then when he did get around to posting it he wanted to make it clear that he received it before the Feminist Philosophers post?

Anonymous said...

9:04 (I'm 8:16),

That certainly is possible. But then why not mention that in the post linking to the Letter from Concerned Philosophers? Leiter gave a bunch of his own thoughts on the matter, he couldn't note that he had received that letter of support within that post, noting that he would post it later? It's obviously directly relevant to the Letter from Concerned Philosophers, so I don't see why he wouldn't mention it.

I'm not trying to accuse Leiter of being a McGinn supporter or anything, I just thought it was weird. But your explanation is certainly one possibility.

Anonymous said...

9:26, I think it's pretty clear from Leiter's own letter that he doesn't support McGinn.

Maybe he didn't publish the letter immediately because they were waiting to hear back from a couple of the hard to reach people in the department (look at the part about some people being difficult to contact because it's summer term).

Anonymous said...

The sentiment "don't kick McGinn while he is down" is preposterous.

He was the responsible party in the professor/student relationship. By his own admission *he* was the person who conducted himself in violation of the policies of his employer.

Students who have been exploited or abused have every right to share their stories. Individuals close to students who have been exploited or abused also have a right to speak out about their experiences.

McGinn's online behavior is what prompted the letter by concerned philosophers. Not only does is potentially harm the initial complainant, it also potentially harms the other female grad students in that department - this type of scandal follows people.

His online behavior has the added affect of silencing other complainants who might come forward. It is not just retaliation against this particular student, but retaliation against all students who show the temerity to speak out.

The reason the letter claims 'de facto' retaliation is clear - regardless of his intentions his behavior has the effects of intended retaliation. It is McGinn's actions that have brought all of this about: not the student, not her boyfriend, not the department, not the University. Take some responsibility, man.

Anonymous said...

McGinn is now quoting comments from this blog.

I think this blog and his should just admit they are the ones doing most of the talking, and address each other directly.

Anonymous said...

Thank you 8:11. I still don't understand how McGinn and now his little dog Philo don't get that calling the graduate student a psychopath and writing over 20 posts in an attempt to discredit her and her supporters is retaliation.

Anonymous said...

3:54 PM: I'd like to ask, just for some clearer info, who DID go to CHE? According to CMG, he had resigned, he wasn't teaching, he wasn't even allowed on campus. The University was under a gag order and CMG wasn't saying anything either. The student in question wasn't going to have to deal with CMG any longer (if she's even still a Miami student). But the early June CHE story made it all public. It was in no one's interest to make it public, though, was it? But someone went to CHE. And that's what spurred CMG, so far as we know, to start to post on his blog. I *guess* it's a good thing it all went public, since we've opened a conversation on power, harassment, climate for women, etc., but you say the student was 'beyond stressed' when she found out the first CHE article was being written. However, she is quoted directly in the first CHE article. Why do that if it was 'beyond stressful' that the whole thing was going to break publicly? I am genuinely trying to get clearer here on the timeline behind the publicity and it would help if someone who knew the inside story could explain it. It might settle some of the factual issues that have arisen lately?

Anonymous said...

It's not clear how the reporter found out. But you might notice on McGinn's blog that he was talking about it with some pretty high profile people, including Robert Silvers, in early/mid-May.

And the student was reluctant to say anything, but decided to give a brief statement that was a timeline of events. She hasn't said anything but that, while McGinn had a whole second article dedicated to an interview with him...and that's in addition to all his blog posts. Why would the student want to go public so she could be defamed and discredited by McGinn?

Philo said...

"Thank you 8:11. I still don't understand how McGinn and now his little dog Philo don't get that calling the graduate student a psychopath and writing over 20 posts in an attempt to discredit her and her supporters is retaliation."

Have you ever talked about your dating/married life with a friend? Maybe joked about it in person or over email – as you’ve seen any number of comedians, famous and not-so-famous, do? Maybe even joked about it only after your friend initiated the banter?

What if that friend then, to your great surprise, turned around and complained to your employer that you were too graphic/personal in those conversations/emails? And this complaint led to a horribly stressful and embarrassing investigation where your employer simply refused to accept your explanation? Might you resign to avoid further embarrassment (and lawyers' fees) – especially if you were nearing retirement age anyway?

And then suppose everybody else heard, piled on, and vilified you for your horribly sexist, harassing behavior? Might you defend yourself, a reputation that you had built up over 10 or 20 or 30 or 40 years? Maybe try to contextualize your emails to your friend? Try to salvage what's left of your dignity?

And what if the furious, vengeful politically correct out there then accused you of *retaliating* against your friend simply because you were trying to defend what you had written? What would be your defense then?

Think about it. Try to employ some empathy (if not sympathy) before you engage in another nasty, self-righteous rant.

Finally, by the way, when did McGinn call anybody a "psychopath"? Do you even know what "psychopath" means? Might *you* be a psychopath for cruelly attacking McGinn without really worrying about how much pain you might unfairly be inflicting? Does he really deserve to be tarred and feathered like this on this and other blogs - again, given the scenario I've depicted above?

How would you like it? Would you even be able to get through it?

Anonymous said...

Philo,

McGinn's defense doesn't work. Sorry.

This "politically correct" epithet just shows further tone deafness about the nature of sexual harassment and what it is.

McGinn had no business sending sexually explicit emails to his RA. Period .

You might treat this as a learning experience rather than assuming everyone else has some sort of moral deficit.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious, Philo, how were you able to post a comment on McGinn's blog when the comments have been disabled?

(Honestly, it's hard not to suspect Colin of sock-puppetry without a credible answer to this question.)

Anonymous said...

Let's remember that we only know details that have been made public. There may be many relevant details that we are unable to access. Also, none of us are in a position to judge whether the claims that have been made public are true.

We can only speculate on people's motivations, and that is a futile task.

Stick to what we know: the student filed a complaint, Colin resigned, the majority of graduate students and faculty (people who are in a position to know more) support the student. Barring any further (verifiable) information coming out, none of us can know what happened.

Anonymous said...

Philo at 12:38 pm: "Have you ever talked about your dating/married life with a friend?"

Can anyone else find the problem with this? Hint: it's the part that says "a friend" instead of "a student under your supervision."

Philo said...

An open mind – how refreshing.

I myself ain’t Colin – sorry, Anonymous. We do have very different writing styles. Are you so obtuse that you can't distinguish between them?

So, anyway, I’m not a sock-puppet and - knowing almost nothing about blogistics (I made that up - is it original?) - I really don’t know about comments being closed. I subscribe to the blog, sign in, and the comment box appears. I’m sure if you subscribed, the same option would become available to you. You’re not about to accuse Colin of yet two other “crimes” – surreptitiously sifting out friends from enemies behind the scenes and then impersonating himself – are you? Suspect and accuse away – you seem to have no problem with that at all. You’d make a great administrator!

Yes, I confess, I am a witch – whoops! I mean, I support Colin. So I guess that does make me his “dog”, by your terminology. That’s fine – I love dogs. Nothing wrong with that. Most of them are happy, friendly, loving, grateful, and loyal. If only more human beings could be like this.

I’m glad you have such sanitized conversations with all your friends and students. So *you* certainly have nothing to worry about. But the rest of us... Well, I’m a successful academic and socialize with my students from time to time. It’s almost unavoidable, at least where I teach. But it’s all good. They love it, and the school appreciates it. So there I am with my students from time – talking, drinking, laughing... sometimes even about sensitive or controversial subjects – including (gasp!) relationships, their own or others’, past and present. Sometimes there are even lighthearted follow-up emails or office visits. What’s a dog like me to do??

Mind you – they bring it up; I just try to keep in the conversation without offending or prying or saying the wrong thing. But it’s a very delicate dance. The slightest off-color joke and who knows what will come of it? Will they tell the other students? Will they run and complain to another colleague? Will they even complain to the administration?

Only a prudish, judgmental, puritanical stiff would refrain from socializing with students and participating in these conversations to avoid such awful risks. And maybe that’s the course you take. But the rest of us Colin-type dogs – we really live on the edge!

If I happen to err (which is human) and make an off-color joke – especially in the context of a conversation like this – and one of my students, after laughing with me, runs and complains, does that automatically make me a sexual harasser? If that story got out, would *you* then be railing – pitilessly, ruthlessly, psychopathically – against me too (assuming I have a big enough name)?

Yes, you say. Ah – but would that be fair? Probably not.

Have you ever done anything wrong, Anonymous? No. OK. You’re perfect – a saint.

The rest of us, however, are not saints. So try – really try, St. Anonymous – to put yourself in our lowly, fallible place. (I’m assuming you are capable of *some* empathy ; saints usually are.) How would *you* like the whole world to know about this mistake and then pound you on a daily basis for months?

Even if you think (know!) Colin did something wrong, do you have any perspective on this? You do realize that many people commit far worse sins and crimes every day, don’t you? Don’t you think they might deserve a little more attention than this? Why is this issue more fascinating to you than the much greater evil that occurs out there on a daily basis? Why aren’t you – moral muckraker as you are – trying to clean all *that* up?

So let’s start – or continue – the moral muckraking with *you*, St. Anonymous. What was your last bad act? Let’s reveal – share as they say – and see if we can’t infinitely dissect your moral depravity for the next three to six months.

Philo said...

An open mind – how refreshing.

I myself ain’t Colin – sorry, Anonymous. We do have very different writing styles. Are you so obtuse that you can't distinguish between them?

So, anyway, I’m not a sock-puppet and - knowing almost nothing about blogistics (I made that up - is it original?) - I really don’t know about comments being closed. I subscribe to the blog, sign in, and the comment box appears. I’m sure if you subscribed, the same option would become available to you. You’re not about to accuse Colin of yet two other “crimes” – surreptitiously sifting out friends from enemies behind the scenes and then impersonating himself – are you? Suspect and accuse away – you seem to have no problem with that at all. You’d make a great administrator!

Yes, I confess, I am a witch – whoops! I mean, I support Colin. So I guess that does make me his “dog”, by your terminology. That’s fine – I love dogs. Nothing wrong with that. Most of them are happy, friendly, loving, grateful, and loyal. If only more human beings could be like this.

I’m glad you have such sanitized conversations with all your friends and students. So *you* certainly have nothing to worry about. But the rest of us... Well, I’m a successful academic and socialize with my students from time to time. It’s almost unavoidable, at least where I teach. But it’s all good. They love it, and the school appreciates it. So there I am with my students from time – talking, drinking, laughing... sometimes even about sensitive or controversial subjects – including (gasp!) relationships, their own or others’, past and present. Sometimes there are even lighthearted follow-up emails or office visits. What’s a dog like me to do??

Mind you – they bring it up; I just try to keep in the conversation without offending or prying or saying the wrong thing. But it’s a very delicate dance. The slightest off-color joke and who knows what will come of it? Will they tell the other students? Will they run and complain to another colleague? Will they even complain to the administration?

Only a prudish, judgmental, puritanical stiff would refrain from socializing with students and participating in these conversations to avoid such awful risks. And maybe that’s the course you take. But the rest of us Colin-type dogs – we really live on the edge!

If I happen to err (which is human) and make an off-color joke – especially in the context of a conversation like this – and one of my students, after laughing with me, runs and complains, does that automatically make me a sexual harasser? If that story got out, would *you* then be railing – pitilessly, ruthlessly, psychopathically – against me too (assuming I have a big enough name)?

Yes, you say. Ah – but would that be fair? Probably not.

Have you ever done anything wrong, Anonymous? No. OK. You’re perfect – a saint.

The rest of us, however, are not saints. So try – really try, St. Anonymous – to put yourself in our lowly, fallible place. (I’m assuming you are capable of *some* empathy ; saints usually are.) How would *you* like the whole world to know about this mistake and then pound you on a daily basis for months?

Even if you think (know!) Colin did something wrong, do you have any perspective on this? You do realize that many people commit far worse sins and crimes every day, don’t you? Don’t you think they might deserve a little more attention than this? Why is this issue more fascinating to you than the much greater evil that occurs out there on a daily basis? Why aren’t you – moral muckraker as you are – trying to clean all *that* up?

So let’s start – or continue – the moral muckraking with *you*, St. Anonymous. What was your last bad act? Let’s reveal – share as they say – and see if we can’t infinitely dissect your moral depravity for the next three to six months.

Anonymous said...

It's not "everyone else" 12:53. Like it or not, there are plenty of us who find folks who continue to unselfconsciously throw around the "sexual harassment" moniker just a bit grotesque. But then it can be awfully hard to get the self-righteous to appreciate just how repulsive their behavior looks to those who aren't convinced of their righteousness.

Anonymous said...

Philo at 2:16: "The slightest off-color joke."

Snort.

Anonymous said...

Philo, do you seriously not see the difference between discussing a relationship a student has with another individual as a mentor, and suggesting to a student that they have sex with you?

Anonymous said...

2:29: do you think that McGinn did anything wrong? Or that the student did something wrong turning McGinn in? Or do you just disagree that the label of sexual harassment in this case might not be warranted?

Anonymous said...

"So, anyway, I’m not a sock-puppet and - knowing almost nothing about blogistics (I made that up - is it original?) - I really don’t know about comments being closed. I subscribe to the blog, sign in, and the comment box appears. I’m sure if you subscribed, the same option would become available to you."

I'm not the original anonymous who asked about commenting. I don't want to escalate the rhetoric or accuse anyone of anything. But I used to be able to comment on CM's blog, and now I cannot (when I log in no comment box appears). I'm sure there's a good answer, I'm just curious why some people can comment there and others cannot.

Anonymous said...

3:44--I am convinced that based on the information we have there is insufficient evidence to talk about who was in the wrong here, for any interpretation of 'wrong' that goes beyond 'ill-advised.' And the fact that so many people are willing to conclude otherwise, and on that basis to condemn anyone who does not share their conviction, is evidence that we have a handful of people in the profession who are more interested in pursuing a crusade in the abstract than in seeing that justice is served in the particulars.

Anonymous said...

"It's not clear how the reporter found out. But you might notice on McGinn's blog that "he was talking about it with some pretty high profile people, including Robert Silvers, in early/mid-May."

Not sure how CMG talking to Silvers makes a difference. The whole thing blew up at Miami in November 2012, apparently--so people at Miami knew something was up. But to their credit, I suppose, they didn't say anything to anybody publicly. Til someone went to the CHE. The question is who, and why. Looking kind of sketchy.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure Rohit meant for his FB comment to appear on the McGinn blog. I suspect he might not realize it's public.

Big D said...

A denial of being a sock puppet is more convincing when the denial does not take the form of an obfuscatory essay redolent of the style of the person the poster is accused of being.

Anonymous said...

I just want to remind everyone that you can still sign the open letter (https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/letter-from-concerned-philosophers/> by sending an email to: concernedphil2@gmail.com.

They'll be checking the box through tomorrow. I'm extremely happy to see so many names on the list already.

Anonymous said...

BigD

I don't think Philo is McGinn..the writing style is different.

But it would be nice to get a straight answer on the commenting policy on CM's blog - otherwise it's difficult to figure out how Philo and BerkeleyGirl are commenting.

This isn't an accusation, it's a simple question.

Anonymous said...

The point was that McGinn was the one talking about it outside the department, so the information leaking out is likely a result of his telling his story to all of his friends in various departments, and not the graduate student or other members of the department who kept it internal.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Philo is McGinn..the writing style is different.

But it would be nice to get a straight answer on the commenting policy on CM's blog - otherwise it's difficult to figure out how Philo and BerkeleyGirl are commenting.


Maybe they're McGinn's sock-puppets, or maybe they're just his lapdogs approved to comment when no one else is. Does it really make a difference?

What gets me is that they—just like McGinn—seem convinced that their asinine comments actually make they/him look good.

Anonymous said...

http://mcginn.philospot.com/index.php?story=story130718-201553

Notice that in Erwin's letter he begins by discussing a sexual relationship between a couple with an imbalanced power dynamic. Even evoking the actual sex act, "it is hardly inappropriate for each party to engage in sexual talk while making love."

Then moves on to the McGinn case, which he immediately points out wasn't sexual.

Notice in Philo's comment he/she begins by discussing a friendship relationship, "Have you ever talked about your dating/married life with a friend?" in the service of making a point about the McGinn case.

This misleading framing of the particular McGinn case is odd and suspect. The two were student and teacher.

Anonymous said...

6:43

"Maybe they're McGinn's sock-puppets, or maybe they're just his lapdogs approved to comment when no one else is. Does it really make a difference"

I think so. It's a demonstration of character.

Anonymous said...

This strikes me as an interesting caveat from the FemPhil's signature appeal:

We encourage those with job security and tenure to sign; because of the risks (including retaliation), we'd ask junior people not to sign in support. The letter should be signed by, and was initiated by, senior members of the philosophy profession because, given our privileges, it is one of our chief responsibilities to provide support for the more vulnerable members of our profession.

Sound to me like code for: "We're only interested in big name philosophers or those from elite institutions as signatories."

Perhaps I'm wrong but a perusal of the names already appended certainly does suggest as much.

It's very sad that, even in a cause such as this, full membership in the guild remains trump.

Anonymous said...

This claim that the only identifying information about the student was released by "leakers" and her boyfriend rather than McGinn is patently false. I would draw attention to the specific (and, might I add, sneaky and childish) things he has said that clearly give it away, but I don't want to aid in his effort to reveal her identity.

Anonymous said...

7:00 pm--

I'm a tenured nobody who signed on as such--and they welcomed me by acknowledging my almost unknown accomplishments.

Not that means anything except this list welcomes most anyone who identifies with the cause.

Anonymous said...

It's a demonstration of character.

6:56, could you explain a bit more what you mean by this?

Anonymous said...

I'm a tenured nobody who signed on as such--and they welcomed me by acknowledging my almost unknown accomplishments.

Good to hear; I retract my suspicion.

Anonymous said...

"We recognize Dr. McGinn’s right to free speech and his right to criticize whatever treatment he may have received by his employer, and we appreciate his stated desire to defend himself. However, the student is not in a position to defend herself publicly. We ask that her university discharge its duty to protect its students from acts that amount to de facto retaliation from professors about whom they have complained."

He resigned. He's not her professor. And last I heard, she left the Miami program, so what is Miami supposed to do about a former student and former member of faculty? And she CAN defend herself publicly. She can call up CHE and tell them she wants to talk, on condition that they keep her name out of it. She could post HERE, and tell her side of the story, with anonymity. This Letter is embarrassing, what with the further suggestion (cf newAPPs) that only senior people sign because for junior people, We Just Don't Know Who is Watching. Is this shit for real? I bet I am not alone in thinking I'd hire the student in the McGinn imbroglio just for standing up to the patriarchy! Once she gets her PhD, of course.

Anonymous said...

"The point was that McGinn was the one talking about it outside the department, so the information leaking out is likely a result of his telling his story to all of his friends in various departments, and not the graduate student or other members of the department who kept it internal."

The ONLY person named in the CHE stories as a source was the student's boyfriend; and in the first story, she was quoted directly as well. Members of the Miami department knew about the situation and doubtless discussed it among themselves. So maybe someone from the student's side decided -- foolishly -- that it was time to make this thing public... but without actually giving the public enough information to help settle whether or not there was a grotesque misunderstanding or a real live case of 2- year long harassment. Her life must be a living hell right now and well, we know what his looks like.

Anonymous said...

I bet I am not alone in thinking I'd hire the student in the McGinn imbroglio just for standing up to the patriarchy!

Yes, next time we have an opening with AOS Standing Up to Patriarchy, I'm going to try to recruit her.

Anonymous said...

The last Anonymous comment 9:47 AM reveals previously unknown information about the student that could be identifying (regarding her current enrollment status). At least, I haven't seen that info in any of the blog posts that I'm following. I think it behooves the moderators to take it down, to protect the complainant. Please.

Anonymous said...

9:47

McGinn was her professor when she filed the complaint. He chose to resign. He chose to blog about the situation and directly stated/insinuated that the student was delinquent, vindictive, and dishonest. He also stated that the student was in an 'intellectual romance' with him. This creates a narrative about the type of person this woman is. Eventually, when the student's name gets out this narrative will be attached to her, or it might anonymously get attached to all female graduate students in that department, making them all suspect.

Unfortunately there are still many sexists in our field who will privately use this narrative against the student(s). McGinn may not be guilty of providing her name, but he is guilty of creating a narrative that can negatively impact her and others. The reason that the letter from concerned philosophers states that this is de facto retaliation is because the outcomes are identical to those of intended retaliation. It isn't only about this one particular case. It is also about students who have been historically marginalized feeling safe to come forward with legitimate complaints.

McGinn's defense amounts to "I didn't tell anyone that lying, delinquent, vindictive bitch's name. How could this be retaliation? ...and my good friend Steven Pinker agrees!"

Anonymous said...

9:47: McGinn is still a professor in the department, according to CHE he resigns at the end of the calendar year. And why would anyone think she isn't a student at Miami any longer?

Further, I think you are mistaken in thinking she could publicly defend herself, without serious consequences. McGinn has demonstrated that he is capable of intimidation and defamatory behavior repeatedly for the last couple of weeks. Can you image how he would respond if she discussed any of the actual details of the case (he CHE statement seemed vague, and according to another poster here was just a brief timeline)? Even if she was anonymous, he might simply out her in retaliation.

Anonymous said...

He hasn't taught at Miami for months and will never teach at Miami again. Everybody at Miami knows who she is. Friends of hers know who she is. The CHE story named her boyfriend--not hard to identify her after that. McG, for the record, didn't start blogging about it until the CHE story leaked, with a bunch of what he thought were defamatory things about him in it. His blog posts have done him considerable harm, but he's mostly calling the boyfriend names--if that--not her. The notion that she'll be tarred and feathered by the narrative of blaming the victim is just part of the comfortable narrative that it's a shitty sexist world we live in. How about instead taking the view that she'd be better off standing up for herself and saying 'I'm the one, here's what he did, here's what I did'. She'd find PLENTY of support. Part of this whole thing that is so offensive is this drumbeat of 'protect the poor girl victim, a famous senior man sent her sexy messages, OMG how inappropriate the poor baby quick make sure nobody knows who she is because the Big Bad Men will hurt her!' For god's sake--she got him fired! How's that for powerlessness! How about empowering us to take a lesson from what she did, and realize there's a lot more you can do these days in calling out the harassers (or, pace MCG, the whatevers), rather than keep on harping on the tired and boring narrative of the poor powerless female and the powerful vindictive male professor? Isn't that exactly the kind of thing we should be opposing?

Anonymous said...

12:30PM: Really? Because it looks to me like his reputation is trashed. Nobody is taking him seriously--look at the posts here! There is not a damn thing he can do to her. If he tried to name her, or anything like that, he'd be hung out to dry even more than lately (when nobody really knows what happened). Further, he's done this to himself. She is in no danger, she's got way too much support (and rightly).

Anonymous said...

First things first: I don't think much of McGinn (never have) and agree that his comments have continued to be asinine through this whole mess.

Now for my two cents' worth:

I once had the misfortune of accepting a 'plea bargain' sort of thing myself -- that is, I resigned a position under pressure -- though I hadn't done anything wrong. My suspicion is that this happens more often than many of you suspect. Here's what happened: I got a position at a crappy school and tried to make it less crappy. Two of my colleagues resented my high enrollment numbers and popularity, and asked me to tone down my extracurricular work: in particular, they wanted me to stop hosting a colloquium series (they didn't like to attend colloquia and were embarrassed when students asked why they didn't show up) and to stop encouraging students to attend undergraduate philosophy conferences (since a couple of students, having attended one such conference and spent the evening in the pub with undergraduates from other universities, complained that a course on phil. of mind they had taken with a rather obsessed, creationist colleague of mind didn't seem to cover the topics that it was meant to). I politely told these colleagues that I would do these things if I wanted to. Other members of the department, together with the dean (who belonged to the department when the university was a community college) took sides against me. My colleagues alleged that, in failing to co-operate with the otherwise unanimous departmental decision to axe these extracurricular programs, I was creating a hostile work environment for my colleagues (since they were very unhappy working under those conditions).

I talked with my union rep, who told me that this sort of thing had happened in other departments previously. He told me that there was nothing he could do in a case of colleague vs. colleagues, and he also explained that if my colleagues kept pestering the dean (which they did) to do something about me, they would ultimately succeed: the same dean had found ways to get rid of others who hadn't 'got in line' with the (often substandard and lazy) status quo of various departments in the university.

In the end, the dean started an 'investigation' and pressured the VP Academic to do something about me. The VP Academic added a warning letter to my file and said that I should cancel all 'offending' activities at once, apologize formally to every other member of my department at what I imagine was to be a big, Orwellian sort of meeting, and attend a number of counseling sessions with the human resources/harassment advisor. I was also to write monthly self-reports to the VP Academic reflecting on my moral progress. Keep in mind that there was never even a suggestion that I had done anything more improper than run a departmental colloquium series at my own expense, encourage students to attend and submit papers to undergraduate conferences, and steadfastly resist colleagues' requests that I stop doing these things.

At that point, I realized that I was going on the job market again anyway (luckily, it all turned out well), and so I agreed to resign my position in return for the letter being removed from the file, etc.

So, whatever I think of McGinn (which isn't anything great), I know the inference from 'he resigned' to 'he did something bad' is dangerously unfair.

Anonymous said...

I'd hire the female student, if I knew who she were and otherwise seemed good. I'm not sure why the fact that she made a complaint should stand against her.

Do people feel the same way about the boyfriend?

Anonymous said...

1:09: "His blog posts have done him considerable harm, but he's mostly calling the boyfriend names--if that--not her."

Oh, c'mon now, he's called her a dumb, vindictive, and covering up for her failure. He's also said, hnnrnh, hnrrhrur, in the very first post in this now immortal series of doubling-downs, "Lesson: reported speech is a bitch (a female dog—be careful how you paraphrase me!)."

"the comfortable narrative that it's a shitty sexist world we live in."

I got nothin' here, sorry. Maybe somebody else can take this up, but I'm stumped.

The rest of your comment has some things going for it, I'll admit.

Anonymous said...

3:45, sorry, I don't see what your experience as a VAP at what sounds like a fundamentalist school has much worth as an analogy to the Miami situation. Sure, admins can beat up on VAPs, that's not news. That the Miami FS would support a weak case or even a borderline good case of a grad student against a tenured full prof with an international reputation -- or that the Uni Pres would overturn a positive FS finding for the prof -- I don't see how the plausibility of that scenario is increased by your story. (About which I'm sorry it happened, needless to say.)

Anonymous said...

1:09, he called the boyfriend a liar, once. He has called her a liar, vindictive, a bitch, a psychopath (those "clever" word games of his), implied she is greedy. She, more than him has been the object of his retaliation.

3:14, while I have sympathy for your story, I think it differs greatly from the McGinn case in that we have enough evidence other than the fact that he resigned to evaluate the claim he did something wrong (his own posts for one).

Anonymous said...

3:14 again here. Just to make clear: I wasn't a VAP. I had the equivalent of tenure at that school (in its transition from a community college to a university, it had temporarily at least maintained a tradition of 'regularizing' faculty rather than giving them tenure. But regularization in the contract language was meant to carry the same protections as tenure.)

My point stands, I think: you can't legitimately move from "X resigned under pressure" to "X was guilty."

On another point, you can't -- as someone earlier tried to -- move from "Students and faculty at X's school condemn X" to "X is guilty." Those faculty members and students, for all we know, are jumping onto the same bandwagon (you know, when someone is getting beaten up for being very, very bad, nobody wants to miss a chance to throw in the boot).

Yes, there is other evidence that supports the view that he is guilty. But -- to the extent that it is our business at all, which is a pretty small extent -- it's wrong for us to try to support our case with bogus inferences like that.

I know that words of doubt are antithetical to the overall self-righteous fun of jumping up and down on a guy who's already lost his job, but there you go.

Charles Pigden said...

Has McGinn been retrospectively pruning his blog posts (perhaps under pressure)? I seem to remember a post in which he lamented the coming downfall of the of the Miami department 'all because a student tried to get herself out of a jam by spinning a colorful yarn'. But though Google records this as a sort of ghost, I can't seem to find it on his extant posts. Have Google and I been hallucinating or has there been some belated self -censorship?

Anonymous said...

I know that words of doubt are antithetical to the overall self-righteous fun of jumping up and down on a guy who's already lost his job, but there you go.

Don't get bent out of shape. Your points are obviously true—as articles of epistemology.

But honestly, everyone knows McGinn is guilty...not because he resigned or because the UM people hate him, but because he's admitted guilt on his own blog. He's just under the sad delusion that such admissions somehow exculpate him.

So yes, your points are well taken, but you have to understand how they're likely to be taken in a situation such as this, where not only is guilt not really in question, but accused professor has been acting like a giant prick before the whole field.

In contrast to your own situation, McGinn's done for. No one will ever hire him again because he's now utterly toxic. It was the RA's complaint that made him so, it was his own raving public lunacy.

Anonymous said...

Haha. McGinn's recent paper is pretty amusing, if only because of his final note: "I am grateful for comments to no one."

Anonymous said...

5:36: Amen and thank you. The point is, shit goes down for administrative reasons and it's possible to look pretty bad if you're caught up in it. Happened to me too, in a different way. Won my case--on sexual disc grounds too!--University Board recommended reinstatement, President shrugged. I didn't get my job back. Yeah, they have that power. Worked out ok, got another job, tenure track, all is well. Department tried to tell my interviews I was bad news, though under a gag order, and nothing I could do. University paid my legal fees though! Wowee!

Anonymous said...

5:36: "overall self-righteous fun of jumping up and down on a guy who's already lost his job, but there you go."

"Lost his job"? I think you mean a "guy who negotiated a settlement with his university -- the financial terms of which remain undisclosed -- and who has relentlessly doubled down since then. A guy who thinks writing 'Lesson: reported speech is a bitch (a female dog—be careful how you paraphrase me!)' is a clever move. A guy who has never once even come close to saying 'I made a mistake and I'm sorry.' A guy who sidles up to FIRE when it's convenient. A guy who thinks 'political correctness' is a term that doesn't deserve outright laughter."

Anonymous said...

4:25: Yeah, it's a shitty sexist world we live in. Some of us think the best thing to do is succeed--Full Professor is the Best Revenge, etc. AND we do need to get over this pathetic knee jerk reaction that women graduate students can't handle their shit like grown women. If I'd run to admin every time some senior guy wrote me something inappropriate, the ranks of the elite would be rather thinner at this point. How about think that maybe some of these guys are pathetic emotional losers and have a lot to lose?

You're right that the female dog comment was crazy. Crazy. But I suspect he didn't mean the student, I think there were some departmental internals there. One of his female colleagues was quoted in the CHE story, and it could have been directed to her. Who knows. He says he paid the student money and she bailed on the agreement of whatever she was supposed to do. I haven't heard anybody deny that from the other side. He does imply she used that as the trigger to run to admin--and who knows what happened. I think they had a relationship and it went sour. Like that never happens,,,

Anonymous said...

@6:21

Yes, McGinn is surely done for. It's hard to imagine that he will ever be hired again. And yes, his own comments have made matters far worse for his reputation.

That being the case, is there really much point to everyone's discussing the case to this extent? What is that point?

The point of doing all this cannot be to ensure that he not be reinstated: that is not a real possibility. It isn't to ensure that he won't find work elsewhere: that is already being taken care of, and moreover it is the business of those who have better knowledge than we do of the exact facts of the matter.

Perhaps some people truly believe that there's something noble to continuing to kick him as he lies permanently beaten in the road just because he continues to speak and defend himself. Perhaps they think that, in doing so, they are "standing up against the patriarchy" or something like that: they might inanely imagine that the majority of established people out there are clamoring to get McGinn reinstated with a medal for bravely suggesting to his RA that they have sex in his office. Oh, men are such pigs! Look at them all, rushing to defend sexual harassment in all its forms! Look at the helpless little grad student locked out of the profession while McGinn buys drinks for the old boys with a devilish grin! It's a flimsy attempt to rationalize an unhealthy desire for gossip, nothing more.

If -- as I suspect -- McGinn behaved improperly toward the RA, then she was right to put a stop to it. She decided to make a formal complaint. The complaint was dealt with in such a way that McGinn's career is over. END OF STORY. The mere fact that McGinn is trying to find ways to vindicate his reputation -- ways that more or less nobody takes to be successful -- does not justify endless speculation and self-righteous displays of horror. This is becoming appalling.

A prominent philosopher was accused of inappropriate conduct, and as a result he is no longer in the profession. That's worth talking about for a day, maybe two. To keep fixating on it, composing and writing letters, and so on well over a month later, and beating up on the guy further even though he's _already been successfully drummed out of the profession_, is symptomatic of something unhealthy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 6:44.

@ 6:46: You quote McGinn as saying "A guy who thinks writing 'Lesson: reported speech is a bitch (a female dog—be careful how you paraphrase me!)' is a clever move."

Holy crap, did he really say that? What the fuck? He actually used the word 'bitch' in reference to an abstract noun rather than a person, and thought it was a clever move? What's the world coming to?

You've won me over. For that alone, McGinn deserves to be held down by the entire Miami philosophy department while we Smokers take turns punching him in the nose. Maybe that'll teach him to write in a less showy way.

But it'll never happen *sigh*... so I guess we have to do our best to obsess over his every word of purple prose while he contemplates alternative career options and digs himself further into a hole. Times are tough!

But remember: every attack against McGinn's writing style makes the profession way, way better for women. Get it? We're not just beating up on the guy: we're just fighting the good fight the best way we know how: by hounding a now-powerless guy who's no longer in the profession. Cool, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

6:46, what do you have against sidling up to FIRE? It's a wonderful organization. What's your problem with it?

Also, is it really such a sin to "think the term 'political correctness' doesn't deserve outright laughter"? Can you think of absolutely no cases, anywhere, that warrant the use of that term? That would be astonishing.

McGinn seems to have acted badly. As a result, his career is over. That happened ages ago. Please, let's move on and stop trying to find more silly things to charge him with. It's over. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

6:46, but it is a clever move--Nabokovian even. It would be as if, 'Anonymous @ 6:46' fit perfectly in context, as in "Anonymous @ 6:46: reported speech is ... ."

Anonymous said...

A prominent philosopher was accused of inappropriate conduct, and as a result he is no longer in the profession. That's worth talking about for a day, maybe two. To keep fixating on it, composing and writing letters, and so on well over a month later, and beating up on the guy further even though he's _already been successfully drummed out of the profession_, is symptomatic of something unhealthy.

I agree that this should probably wind down since it's become more and more apparent that McGinn is mentally disturbed. But you're being awfully selective in your presentation of the matter.

The fact is, McGinn was a big name, got implicated in an issue that has been a festering sore in our field for some time, rallied other very big names to his defense, and then has been making a nasty public spectacle over the matter ever since. Do you really think people are so very mature just to look the other way?

And besides, much of the controversy on here has centered on those defending McGinn's actions rather than McGinn himself. I think that is a rather distinct issue as it speaks to ongoing problems in the field.

Lastly, while I do think that people should start ignoring McGinn's posts, and I'm personally done reading his blog, I have a very hard time feeling any sympathy for him; not just because of what he's put the RA through, but because he seems like a frankly awful human being.

Anonymous said...

It's a mistake to read it as kicking him while he's down. The letter writers were responding to McGinn's efforts to discredit the complainant in his blog. The letter is imperfect, but there was a week or two where the silence of the community including Leiter, fem phil blog and newapps to McGinn's behavior on his blog was deafening. The concrete result of this letter has apparently been his decision to delete a number of his more aggressive blog posts. This blog has been an important part of this positive development.

Anonymous said...

6:59: your comments are unfortunate, but at least they demonstrate what's wrong with the profession for the rest of us (they had a relationship and it went sour, so she turned him in...really?). That's made more unfortunate because it seems you are a woman...

Anonymous said...

7:46, who are these prominent people you speak of, who seek to defend McGinn and dismiss the seriousness of sexual harassment? You present this as evidence for how bad things are in the profession.

Well, Stephen Schiffer seems to have been _misrepresented_ as saying some of those things, but he corrects that wrongful impression here: http://chronicle.com/blogs/letters/article-misrepresented-my-views-on-the-mcginn-case-schiffer/

Perhaps you have in mind Steven Pinker: he did rally to the defense of McGinn, so you may have something of a point there. But that point is not great for your case for a couple of reasons: first, Pinker is not a philosopher but rather a psychologist, so nothing follows about the state of our discipline. Second, Pinker makes clear that he is writing as a member of FIRE, an organization whose aim is to protect faculty members from arbitrary dismissal at the hands of university administrators. Have a look at Ginsberg's _The Fall of the Faculty_ for information on this: sexual harassment and equity charges are one set of tools used by administrators for circumventing the traditional protections of tenure. Pinker's point in his letter is that the extreme punishment dismissal is a "ludicrously disproportionate" punishment for the exchange of sexual banter with an RA. I personally disagree with Pinker on that point, but I hardly think that an objection from a non-philosopher, writing as a member of an academic rights organization, arguing that a milder punishment might have been more appropriate is indicative of a serious problem with a discipline to which that writer does not even belong. Hence, I continue to question the importance of our endlessly examining the McGinn case. I think we are well past the point where anything constructive can emerge from continuing to put McGinn through the wringer.

As for your comment that you find it difficult to sympathize with McGinn, I share your difficulties. Where you and I seem to part company is that I don't take my lack of sympathy as a justification for continuing to run down and defame a man who has already lost his place in the profession (or any other public figure, for that matter). Thank goodness the processes of review and punishment are not based on personal sympathy. It's also a good thing, I think, for those of us who aren't really a part of these matters to avoid engaging in celebrity gossip. It's trashy and small-minded.

Anonymous said...

For my part, I learned about this story a couple weeks ago and didnt make any comments until a few days ago.

I did so because

a) it was increasingly clear to me McGinn sexually harassed his RA
b) that this is clear because of things McGinn states on his blog
c) McGinn's defenses, often echoed on this blog, are not defenses and wildly misunderstand bounds of acceptability

Those in the discipline should understand: you can't send sexually suggestive emails or suggest having sex with your students, even if they are adults. You can't do this, even though sometimes it's wanted because sometimes it isn't.

That is the law and it is the policy at most universities.

Anonymous said...

8:00,

I haven't seen these "aggressive blog posts" by McGinn, since (as you say) they have been taken down. So I can't comment on them.

However, I'd be grateful if you could explain to me how he wrongfully 'discredited' the complainant. My understanding is that he didn't even mention her name. Her name is not public knowledge (I'm a fairly well-connected member of the profession, and I don't know it). If that's right, then there doesn't seem to be much to it.

McGinn, on the other hand, has been named and shamed. Did he deserve it? Very probably. But what kind of precedent do we want to set here? X accuses Y of something, and as a result Y is drummed out of the profession (presumably with an agreement that the parties involved will keep quiet about it). Some third party Z, associated with X, nonetheless opens a huge can of worms by making the charges against Y extremely public. In those cases, should Y be permitted to give his/her version of events? Or should Y be forced to sit in silence and have his/her reputation dragged through the mud?

I'm not sure that you grasp how very important this question is: it's difficult to imagine that, if you had _really_ thought about the implications of that principle and the extraordinary injustices that could and doubtless would arise from its application, you would see this as a "positive development".

Anonymous said...

OK, 8:39. I think you've made your point. Sending sexually suggestive emails to one's students and RAs is _not_ OK; and moreover, if you do it, you're breaking the law and university policy and are liable to be disciplined (even dismissed).

I think we're all clear on that now, and have been for some time.

Anonymous said...

8:40,

McGinn has made 42 posts on the matter (go count) in the last month. That doesn't include the ones he took down that were particularly nasty (which a lot of people saw, because it took him days to take them down). In the ones still up he refers to the RA as vindictive, he claims she was only trying to get money, he also claims she only said something because of an academic failing. He also engages in his "clever" word games and calls her a bitch, a psychopath, among other things.

And her name not being public knowledge doesn't mean his claims aren't retaliatory, as other people in this thread have pointed out.

Furthermore, as I pointed out above, McGinn has made *42* posts on the matter. The person who has spoken up on behalf of the RA made two comments in an article that he was probably asked to contribute to by the reporter. McGinn could have replied with a single post, or just let his story be told in the CHE (which, I might add, he did give two interviews, the second article pretty much was a platform for him to describe in detail his situation). But he decided instead to engage in continually defaming and retaliating against the RA for month.

Not Yo Momma's Philosopher said...

3:45/5:36 writes:

"Other members of the department, together with the dean (who belonged to the department when the university was a community college) took sides against me. My colleagues alleged that, in failing to co-operate with the otherwise unanimous departmental decision to axe these extracurricular programs, I was creating a hostile work environment for my colleagues (since they were very unhappy working under those conditions).

I talked with my union rep, who told me that this sort of thing had happened in other departments previously. He told me that there was nothing he could do in a case of colleague vs. colleagues, and he also explained that if my colleagues kept pestering the dean (which they did) to do something about me, they would ultimately succeed: the same dean had found ways to get rid of others who hadn't 'got in line' with the (often substandard and lazy) status quo of various departments in the university.


In the end, the dean started an 'investigation' and pressured the VP Academic to do something about me. The VP Academic added a warning letter to my file and said that I should cancel all 'offending' activities at once, apologize formally to every other member of my department at what I imagine was to be a big, Orwellian sort of meeting, and attend a number of counseling sessions with the human resources/harassment advisor. I was also to write monthly self-reports to the VP Academic reflecting on my moral progress. Keep in mind that there was never even a suggestion that I had done anything more improper than run a departmental colloquium series at my own expense, encourage students to attend and submit papers to undergraduate conferences, and steadfastly resist colleagues' requests that I stop doing these things."


Wow. I am far more bothered by this (and 6:44's story) than I am by any of the twaddle that's been made public about the McGinn case. Look at what this vignette says about our profession. If true, a man who was creatively engaging with his students, improving their professional philosophical capacities, was shut down on the basis of a trumped-up set of charges of "hostility." If these stories are passably accurate, they show that putative quests for "social justice" can instead support some pretty unjust sorts of institutional changes.

I myself think the better part of valor here is for men and women of principle and good will to take a more open stand on matters of this sort, in faith and company with one another. That's largely a personal thing, shared with one's own social circle, and something we each need to be doing on our own. The idea that we need to come to this sort of rescue for a GROWN FUCKING WOMAN is ludicrous. This is an opportunity for the accuser to take whatever sort of grrrlpwwrrr she needs and move on with her life. It is hardly an event that will scar her, and if it threatens to, those around her need to offer her what support they can. The white knighting and cluck-clucking from the gallery isn't helping anyone, and the idea that we can just shit on CM for the supposed good this is doing the community, as some people seem to be suggesting ('restorative' was used at one point), would be laughable were it not so tragic. In all probability, a guy fucked up by and a girl got him in trouble for it. No one had their clit cut off, so let's just get the fuck on with our lives.

For god's sake, we all know there's a whole lot we can change for the better. We ought to be making genuine efforts in our individual interpersonal spaces here, not looking to pillory the faults of another. I’ve weathered myself through a fair number of storm-battered relationships, and I’m quite confident that none of them would have been helped by the sustenance found in this kind of harvest. I imagine I'm not alone in that.

Not Yo Momma's Philosopher said...

People like 6:21 and 6:46 need to get something straight. It is an important part of the issue at this point, as has been from the beginning, whether McGinn is the Big Bad White Guy people are making him out to be, or better cast as a bitter asshole pitching wordplay on top of blatant self-contradiction so as to have a piss at his accuser and her cohort. You cannot self-righteously trot out the "he's obviously a demon, anyone with any sense can see that" nonsense while pitching to the audience that anyone who doesn't share your point of view is a troll. It is disastrous as a contribution to the conversation, precisely because it pushes the conversation along a political path that is, as 3:45/5:36 and 6:44 offer testimonial evidence of, a blight on the profession and its practitioners. People in this mindset need to come to understand that, for many of us, it's not clear that McGinn's behavior, or the supposed harm done to the accuser, is anything more offensive than an ill-advised relationship with a woman and the twisted humor of a man who has decided the whole thing is a farce and, as a result, just doesn't give a fuck any more. Petulant accusation will not carry the conversation in this. Attention to the facts will rule the day.

And given that we are so out of the loop on the facts, we all in our better sense would shut up about it. The speculation, public posturing, and pissy little fits of rage are killing the people involved in this (oh noes, the violence! no invokings the violence!).

Moral grandstanding not to the contrary, I suspect the best we can do at this point, as a community, is to each of us find some way to take something of value away from this mess and move the fuck on with our summers. Such stuff as we are was not born of this. Be men and women of good character, and endeavor to live together in charity and hope.

Anonymous said...

8:40 is spot on. And all I meant, 8:17, is that they had a relationship, it went sour, and it may well have gone sour over some inappropriate emails, not to mention mysterious money, or both. We still don't know what she accused him of, or why, exactly. So dial down the indignation about 'what's wrong withe profession'. What's wrong with it, as woefully illustrated on the blogs, is that nobody seems to be able to be particularly critical or analytical about just what is in evidence and what inferences can or can't be drawn from it. The only thing we really know is that CMG is off his head, but we knew that anyway.

Anonymous said...

"wildly misunderstand bounds of acceptability" made me laugh out loud, so I had to post. Uh, have you met Colin McGinn? Seriously, I'm still laughing. The guy is practically on the spectrum. Maybe some sympathy might be found for him on that score.

Anonymous said...

To the person scolding us for prolonging the discussion: yes, you're right, gossip fuels it. But there's more going on here.

The Miami thing is just an example of a larger disconnect between two groups in the profession when it comes to "gender relations" (to put it broadly and neutrally). Here's two recent examples from (what I took to be) representatives from each "side":

7:46, who are these prominent people you speak of, who seek to ***defend*** McGinn and dismiss the seriousness of sexual harassment? You present this as evidence for how bad things are in the profession.

8:39 McGinn's ***defenses***, often echoed on this blog, are not ***defenses*** and wildly misunderstand bounds of acceptability...you can't send sexually suggestive emails or suggest having sex with your students, even if they are adults. You can't do this, even though sometimes it's wanted because sometimes it isn't. That is the law and it is the policy at most universities.

I emphasized one point of disconnect in these quotes--the question as to what ***counts*** as a defense (or justification) of (e.g.) McGinn's actions.

As these two posters are not directly addressing each other, in one sense, it's no big deal. Still, it's a bit jarring how 8:39 talks right past 7:46 (not to pick on 8:39 - this is just one example, and both "teams" have done this).

Anyway, I'm just pointing this out.

I'm guessing everybody is aware of the disconnect, though we hardly ever talk about it. Everybody knows who is on Team-A and Team-B in their own department (I know I do).

Anonymous said...

@ 8.40

Taking down the blog posts where he attempted to undermine her credibility is the positive development that I was referring to.

Anonymity: He gave enough detail initially to indicate who she is among the pool of female students at UM.

The letter from philosophers explicitly comments on his right to defend himself. Your concerns regarding how we are entitled to handle leaks and breaches of confidentiality agreements is an alarmist red-herring.

In fact, he has "sat in silence" on a number of the central issues. If he had been a bit more straightforward maybe he could make his case. But he hasn't.

Instead, his strategy has been to slowly leak details about her in order to undermine her credibility. He has encouraged us to believe a story about a romance between the woman that he paints as a needy, sub-par, ungrateful, delinquent, who didn't think she was good enough to find work in the profession, who really couldn't hack it in philosophy after all, who ingratiates herself with the generous, naive sage who goes in for a harmless bit of Benny Hill now and again.

For all the talk of feminist victim fantasies... McGinn is playing to some well-entrenched storytelling cliches too.


Anonymous said...

I'm late to the party, but the grandchildren part was the best. I'd love to hear McGinn explain the cleverness of his handjob jokes to his grandchildren.

Anonymous said...

The thing that really makes me angry about this whole situation is that McGinn did something SO EGREGIOUSLY WRONG on his blog, and yet no one can (or should) comment directly about it because no one wants to hurt the student. But it should be at least mentioned indirectly as part of the fodder for the (in my view completely warranted) anger many people feel at McGinn on account of his mistreatment of the student in a public forum. No doubt this was part of the reason that the faculty members familiar with this student felt so strongly that he had released identifying information.

Suffice it to say that McGinn used one of his little bouts of speaking in code to reveal the student's identity. I am someone familiar with the grad students at Miami basically only by name (because I considered attending there for graduate school and corresponded with some of them), and I intentionally tried not to speculate about which of the students it was when reading McGinn's explanations of the situation. But because of one of McGinn's posts, it was readily apparent exactly which student he was discussing. He used a little play on her name to effectively name her. It's completely outrageous.

Anonymous said...

8:40

"Some third party Z, associated with X, nonetheless opens a huge can of worms by making the charges against Y extremely public. In those cases, should Y be permitted to give his/her version of events?"

How do you know that is what happened? That's McGinn's version of the events, which can be read as an attempt to smear the boyfriend. Is there any independent corroboration that this is what happened?

People close to the RA have said that McGinn, prior to the CHE article, was defaming the student (both to her current professors and to people in other departments/universities). He was threatening legal action and to go public with his story. If that's true then perhaps someone went to CHE as a proactive measure to defend the RA - who really would have been experiencing retaliation if these details are true.

The fact is we don't know who went public first with these events or why. None of us on the outside have any reason to favor one version of what we've heard to the other.

And anyone blaming the boyfriend is wildly off base given the absence of evidence. No one needs to be further vilified here - the Letter from Concerned Philosophers seems to be serving its stated purpose of getting McGinn to quit defaming the RA, hopefully we can all move on soon.

Anonymous said...

5:44,

How do we know that the boyfriend spilled the beans to CHE before McGinn started blogging about it? Well, because we can see when the CHE article was published and we can see when McGinn started blogging on the topic.

If you have evidence that McGinn was the one who instigated the public disclosure, then please present it. Otherwise, he seems to be correct in his representation of the sequence of events.

When these ugly matters come to the attention of investigators/university senate/what have you, the two main objectives are 1) fix the problem and make sure it won't happen again, and 2) restrict the spread of information about it so that the fight won't spill out into the streets, where every self-righteous gossip will want a piece of it.

Goal 1 was achieved by getting McGinn out of the profession, so that he couldn't possibly do this again. Goal 2, as we all acknowledge, was important for the grad student's career.

But satisfying Goal 2 can only work if everyone who knows anything really does shut up about it. If anyone starts spilling the goods, then the side that is vilified will naturally want to respond to the public charges, and then the first side will want to respond to the response, and so on. At no point from then on is it clear who's in the wrong for continuing to spill the beans, since a case can generally be made that the public can't hear about Fact A without also hearing Fact B, while Fact C has been misreported, etc. Reputations are at stake, and nobody should be forced to have his/her reputation unfairly tarnished.

That's why it's so crucial for nobody to break the silence in these matters.

It seems that McGinn really did do something that was very bad in the first case. But be that as it may, this insane and hurtful public discussion/obsession is doing far more harm to all involved (particularly those who have been named). Whichever party was indiscreet enough to start blabbing in public about it deserves a huge share of the blame. It seems clear to me it was the boyfriend, but again I'll stand corrected if you can show me otherwise.

As for whether "someone went to CHE as a proactive measure to defend the RA," well, a proactive measure is a first strike. Not cool.

Anonymous said...

4:44, I noticed that too, early on. It's disgusting. And he still has it up. Sad the university doesn't care enough about its students to do something about him.

Anonymous said...

Ugh, in the latest post on CMG's blog, he says that he is going to try to put the story to rest and wind down on posting about it, BUT he's also writing an entire, detailed book on the incident. This is very worrisome. Woman rightly files a report about inappropriate behavior, gets slandered online, and then an entire book gets written about the incident, presumably where she's made to look like an evil, conniving, sub-par student who robbed the world of one of the most brilliant minds (sarcasm here) in academia. This will do wonders for women in the field feeling secure when they find themselves in a position to stand up against harassment.

Via CMG:
"The second part of the plan concerns the more distant future. Here the intention is to prepare a full-length, no holds barred, systematic treatment of the entire subject, from soup to nuts. That is, I (possibly with the collaboration of others) will write a book detailing the entire sorry story, setting out all the facts, and drawing all necessary conclusions. I will publish this book. Everything will be included (so long as it is within the law), so that the interested reader can survey the entire body of evidence and come to his or her own conclusions. I think this will be a real eye-opener for many, though not for those who are already fairly well acquainted with the facts of the case. I will also discuss the wider significance of the case, as well as the nature of the public reaction."

Anonymous said...

@7:56

I am close to the RA and he boyfriend and I can say withe certainty that it wasn't either one of them that went to the CHE. As has been stated before in this thread, it might be the result of the campaign that McGinn was leading to get his story out there in the philosophical community through his friends (the soliciting of letters that was happening in May before the CHE article). Why is it not plausible that one of them informed the CHE?

Anonymous said...

Hahaha. OMG I love reading his blog. Because it takes a special kind of self-centered to write about how he hopes to wind down his discussion of these events, and that in order to do so he's going to write a book about it!

Or maybe he's far more savvy than I give him credit for; maybe the best way to ensure something stops being addressed in public is to publish it in a philosophy book!

Anonymous said...

7:56am writes to 5:44am: "If you have evidence that McGinn was the one who instigated the public disclosure, then please present it. Otherwise, he seems to be correct in his representation of the sequence of events."

5:44am has presented evidence: "People close to the RA have said that McGinn, prior to the CHE article, was defaming the student (both to her current professors and to people in other departments/universities). He was threatening legal action and to go public with his story."

Hearsay is evidence. It's not great evidence, so it's not admissible in a law court. But this is not a law court, and we can judge its plausibility. In light of his blog posts, does it sound like the sort of thing McGinn would do?

Anonymous said...

I swear. I thought we actually were winding this thing down and now the latest CM post...

I just will reiterate my point. The man thinks his blog posts are "rebuttals" when for me they are clear evidence of his guilt. Perhaps this book he is writing will give the RA enough evidence to sue him in civil court and take him for everything he has.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:56

"How do we know that the boyfriend spilled the beans to CHE before McGinn started blogging about it? Well, because we can see when the CHE article was published and we can see when McGinn started blogging on the topic."

Huh? The boyfriend talked to the CHE reporter, but how on earth is that evidence that he made the story public in the first place? Erwin and Thomasson also talked to the reporter; so did the RA and McGinn himself! The leaker was probably someone heard about the situation through "private" channels and a) severely disliked McGinn or b) didn't like the idea of bad behavior being effectively covered up.

Anonymous said...

He's going to write a book now?!

I feel so bad for the student. Her life is going to continually be a living hell because of this narcissistic man.

And the most unfortunate consequence of all of this is that the lesson is you don't say something about a prominent professor's inappropriate behavior. No one is going to come forward about mistreatment in the profession if this gets off the ground.

Anonymous said...

Wow. What a discussion. Now we're told that the university "doesn't care enough about its students to do something about" McGinn. I guess the fact that THE UNIVERSITY, WITH NO OUTSIDE HELP FROM THE WHINERS WHO KEEP ON OBSESSING ABOUT HIM ON THIS AND OTHER WHINY BLOGS, PUT ENOUGH PRESSURE ON HIM THAT HE RESIGNED HIS POSITION AND ENDED HIS CAREER doesn't count as doing anything.

But continuing to discuss the guy AFTER HE'S ABANDONED HIS CAREER... well, that's real heroism! It's not petty or creepy at all! It's a valuable public service!

As for the book the guy now plans to write, well, doesn't that just show what a shitty profession this is for women! I mean, look at the facts: a famous and powerful professor writes some inappropriate emails to a female RA. The RA brings them to the attention of the university, and the university ends the famous professor's career. Then, after his career has come to an end, the formerly respected philosopher has his reputation dragged through the mud, so that everyone now sees him as a complete asshole. Now, think of that poor RA: twenty or so people who know enough about her department to be able to decode an obscure reference in a blog posting can figure out who she is, even though they'll probably take her side anyway and not give a fuck about what some publicly humiliated loser writes about her! Plus, she has to live with the fact that, when she received inappropriate emails and reported them, the university cared so little about the matter that THEY SUCCESSFULLY PRESSURED THE PERPETRATOR TO END HIS ENTIRE CAREER OVER IT! Boy oh boy, did McGinn ever get the better of things. It really shows that, in this profession, you can make inappropriate comments to female students and nothing at all happens, regardless of your status in the profession.

But wait, it gets worse! Not only has McGinn walked away from this in perfect triumph while the RA's future lies in tatters, but he's going further: he's planning to write a bitter book about the whole affair! He made this announcement just hours ago, and still the university hasn't responded! What a crappy, pro-harassment culture we all live in!

It's clear what needs to be done: the university must make an announcement -- within the day -- that it will bend heaven and earth to prevent the book from being published. We can tell in advance that it will contain libelous passages. We must pressure the university to devote all available funds to hiring lobbyists throughout the state, the country and the entire world to prevent any such books from being published, ever. Only then will the RA and others in her position be safe. McGinn is such a beloved character that, even if he publishes the book with an obscure press from Swaziland, the philosophical community will eat up his every word uncritically and follow a clever array of subtle clues that might identify the RA to a handful of her friends. And then her career will be OVER!

That's it, then. The University of Miami must immediately raise the funds for this international lobbying effort (presumably by shutting down its department and firing everyone without severance). The fact that they haven't done that yet is a clear sign of how little they care. And as usual, the Smokers, NewAPPS crowd, and Feminist Philosophers deserve all the credit for pressing on until the job is done. Congratulations, everyone. You're the REAL heros.

Anonymous said...

@9:24 AM

Have an upvote, you scallywag: ^





Anonymous said...

9:24, What are you so angry about? I find it very bewildering. Who are these self-righteous, self-annointed "heroes" you keep ranting about? I can't for the life of me figure out who you are referring to. All I see is that McGinn continually provides material to discuss. Anyone with even the slightest internet savvy realizes that under the cloak of anonymity, folks are going to continue discussing anything interesting, ad infinitum. And that's just what we're doing, because McGinn won't stop giving us material to mock. I'm seriously at a loss as to what exactly is the object of your indignation. (Although I confess, I've started to look forward to your rants as well.)

Also, can anyone confirm that McGinn already took down the blog entry where he says he plans to write a book? I can't find it.

Anonymous said...

McGinn has revised his blog post: now he resolves not to write a book on the matter, because he wants to put it all behind him. One really wonders about his mental stability. It seems to be more than just narcissism, as some have suggested. To be sure, McGinn behaves like a genuine narcissist, but he is also being extremely self-destructive, and he is routinely exercising terrible (moral and prudential) judgment. What is going on with this guy?

Anonymous said...

McGinn takes down another of his own blog posts (7/22/13, 1:09pm 'Another Open Letter on McGinn') which misrepresented and trivialized his behavior as merely 'dickjokes'?

He wants so badly to retaliate against her that he cannot stop himself, even as he attempts to defend himself against the charge of de facto intimidation, from doing so.



Not Yo Momma's Philosopher said...


It's been said by others before in this thread, but it's worth repeating. People like 9:06 are part of the problem:

"He's going to write a book now?!

I feel so bad for the student. Her life is going to continually be a living hell because of this narcissistic man.

And the most unfortunate consequence of all of this is that the lesson is you don't say something about a prominent professor's inappropriate behavior. No one is going to come forward about mistreatment in the profession if this gets off the ground."

Given how this situation looks, one who was to have a life that was "continually a living hell" because of it is one who's deeper problem lies in their emotional immaturity, together with whatever social insecurities are being bred into those of their local community. But for fuck's sake, with the exception of the handful of people directly involved, no one knows anything about any of that. As such, all the hand-wringing about the accuser's plight looks to be creating the very sort of social atmosphere that leads to the manifest injustices people like 3:45 and 6:44 brought to our attention. That ought to be a bigger part of this discussion, I think.

This whole shit-show plays out like an emblem of the professional dystopia that is today's academy. It is no wonder that voices of good sense are so seldom heard in these fora. Between the limp-wristed thump-twiddling moral scolds and the "what, me worry?" nonchalance of those in power, anybody with the mind god gave a gas station attendant can see that this profession is rife with incompetency, enclaves of social power, and the injustices these institutions breed as a matter of practice. And anybody with the mind god gave a gas station attendant would quickly realize that their life would be better served in some other capacity. So no wonder we're surrounded by such perversity; the only people who stick around are psychologically stunted to begin with. And so the cycle continues.

Look, we all know a whole slew of personal and professional relationships have been destroyed. The tragedy lies in the heartache this destruction brings with it. Busying ourselves with blame and the bullshit narratives that support blame today is frankly disgusting, and a pox on the lot of you who keep it up. Fuck's sake, get on with your summers (or winters, as the case may be).

And if McGinn's ham-fisted defenses silence people who otherwise would have come forward, the deeper problem here lies with the narrative of perpetual persecution that underwrites the confused set of sentiments and habits of reason that encourage being cowed into such submission in the first place. Teach and mentor people of strength and character. The accuser, if she is right in this, will have been made all the more stronger by it. THAT ought to be the message, not the victim-narrative some are so keen on perpetuating.

And personally I think it would be best for all of us if Professor McGinn would put a cork in it for a while. If he wants to write a book, go for it. I’m sure he’ll have no shortage of readers when it comes out. Personally I think it’s a conversation we ought to have at some point, in all its gory details (trigger warring! I just said ‘gore!’), but I don’t think we’re getting ourselves anywhere near having it right now. So let’s all just drop it, go outside, and enjoy the weather we’re having.

Anonymous said...

Now he's *not* writing the book.

Haha. This is my new favorite soap opera.

Anonymous said...

CM has now posted a link to an open letter that "somebody" wrote...

Note to self. When one finds oneself in a hole, stop digging.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and I forgot the most horrible part of all -- the biggest sign that philosophy is the MOST HOSTILE DISCIPLINE FOR WOMEN, EVER! After McGinn was forced out of his career for having written these emails, and during the time when more or less the entire profession was shitting all over him and salivating over the train wreck (made juicier and juicier by the self-condemning comments McGinn continued to make), AT LEAST ONE OF HIS FRIENDS STOOD BY HIM!

Can you beat that? The public hatred of McGinn was not 100.00000% complete! Can you imagine a worse sign of the times for women in philosophy? If our discipline were at least minimally decent for women, then WHENEVER privately-settled cases (successfully resolved in favour of the recipient of unwanted comment) become public because some idiot wishes to blab to a major academic journal, EVERY SINGLE PERSON, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, MUST THROW THE APPARENT PERPETRATOR TO THE WOLVES. If even one friend or ally stands by the guy who seems to have done something wrong, then the job is not yet done.

True, even mass murderers have family members who stick by them after the evidence is in. But sexual harassment must be condemned much more strongly. So let's resolve from now on not only to destroy the reputations of apparent sexual harassers, but also those of anyone who doesn't join enthusiastically in the general condemnation. Only then will justice and a free, easy climate prevail.

Philo said...

Here's another open letter on McGinn. Pure brilliance (genius?): http://theundersignedblog.wordpress.com/

And no - I didn't write this. But I wish I had...

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