Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Funny Thing About the Response to Colorado

There are two comments over on a post at NewAPPS on the APA Committee on the Status of Women's site report from CU that are worth highlighting in light of the remarkably tone deaf reactions to the report on other blogs about the profession. (The responses are tone-deaf either partially [note Leiter's reference to "re-education"(?!?!); I reacted here] or fully, [note especially Mohan Matthen's reference to "puritanical lip-pursing;" WTF? (EDIT: SEE THE FULLER QUOTE BELOW)].)

The irony of the concern trolling about the committee's actions and report in light of the committee's description of CU's faculty "[spending] too much time articulating (or trying to articulate) the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior instead of instilling higher expectations for professional behavior" was not lost on me and definitely not on the following commenters (emphases added).

Anon. 10:14:
So many things here are simply so counterproductive. 
I am exceptionally concerned that this post and so many others seek to undermine the usefulness of the APA site visit program. Not to say that the program is beyond critique, but the pattern of critique emerging from Colorado's report is a deeply ironic one: message boards have targeted the APA for not ensuring confidentiality (its transparent policies notwithstanding), and others like this one undermine the APA team by questioning their assessment because the report is too vague for us to make our own--let's be honest here--ill-considered judgments. We have both too much information and not enough, and somehow it is all the APA's fault. 
On the critique that the APA's report is too vague: minimal reflection should reveal that vagueness is necessary to protect victims and those who were willing to speak with the site visit team at all. And, for that matter, to ensure due process for the accused in the event complaints are ongoing. I grow weary of the skepticism based on vagueness in the report, when there are very good reasons for vagueness. I grow weary of skepticism based on faulty arguments (e.g. just because the author and Leiter have never heard of Colorado's problems, does not invalidate the claim that Colorado has a bad reputation.) And I'm am tired of seeing the much needed work that the APA site visit provides being undermined because, for example, the APA did not mention specific countries when they used the term "international". 
With the APA's site visit program we now have a new way to address the profession's very serious climate problems. Let's see what we can do to support this effort instead of sowing distrust and anxiety. We have enough of that.
Anon. 11:00:
I am tempted to say that much of the analysis in this post serves as a good example of the kind of "pseudo-philosophical analyses" the report calls out. The report does not identify individuals and does not recommend punishments (unless training counts as punishment, which it shouldn't). Receivership is a significant step, but does not punish any individual member of the department. (Including, I think, the replaced chair -- administrative positions are shifted around for a variety of reasons.) So why would "forensic expertise" be a requirement on the investigators? What is pseudo-philosophical is the expectation that a real-world attempt to address a problem should meet some arbitrary standard chosen by the critic. If only everyone brought this level of rigor to their personal interactions -- there would surely be much less ogling. 
Members of less powerful group B are being harmed by some members of more powerful group A. A fix is proposed that doesn't punish members of A in any realistic use of the term "punish", but A's hairs will be ruffled. A-folk will have to experience some unpleasant feelings, and maybe even hear some unpleasant things said about them (probably not to their faces, but maybe in blogs, and in comments on blogs). They will have to go to some boring meetings. And A-folk don't like that -- they feel that if anything they have to put up with too much of that stuff already! (After all, A-folk don't see themselves as powerful. They think they have much less power than they should have, given their great merit.) So the fix is rejected by A-folk in favor of some ruffle-free, as-yet-unidentified future fix. And nothing happens, and the harm to members of B continues. Such a shame there's no good fix.
Shorter: Per the committee's report, we need to start thinking about "instilling higher expectations for professional behavior," i.e., taking the report seriously, rather than subjecting it to the very same "pseudo-philosophical analyses" the report criticizes. (For a similar, more nicely put point, see Schliesser, whose presence at NewAPPS I now especially miss, here.)

 -- Jaded, Ph.D.

642 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Full Matthen quote (i.e., not taken entirely out of context):

"So is the committee saying that there was sexual harassment of kinds even worse than "sexualizing behaviour"? Perhaps: they say that "perpetrators were given a slap on the wrist," which suggests that serious offences were overlooked. On the other hand, the worst specific complaint they make is that "some male faculty have been observed ogling undergraduate women students." If seriously bad stuff was going on, it is trivialized by this kind of puritanical lip-pursing. "

Anonymous said...

"Shorter: Per the committee's report, we need to start thinking about "instilling higher expectations for professional behavior," i.e., taking the report seriously, rather than subjecting it to the very same "pseudo-philosophical analyses" the report criticizes."

This kind of thinking is part of the problem. If we can't see that the corrections coming to Colorado are (or may be) just what was needed, while leaving a space to question the methods by which those corrections are being implemented (and without having the ethical bona fides of the questioners come under dispute), we're lost as a profession.

Anonymous said...

The main thing I find so puzzling is that so many people criticize the report for lacking in detail (I take Matthen's criticism to be along these lines). But the report is not meant to convince the public/profession that there are problems at CU Boulder. It is meant to report that it has found problems and make constructive suggestions. It did that. The administration chose to make itself look good by releasing the report. That sucks, but why is that reason to find fault with the report itself (the way Matthen does)?

Anonymous said...

Jaded--do you mean to be saying that the only options for action here are "taking the report seriously" and "subjecting it to pseudo-philosophical analyses"? You're either with us or against us, is that the idea?

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

5:52: Even with the full quote, I still think that the reference to "puritanical lip-pursing" is way off-mark. Maybe there was other stuff going on that we might deem as "seriously bad stuff" but if the ogling of undergraduate women was going on in front of graduate students, that too is pretty fucking bad and makes for a chilly climate. Again, notice the attempt to draw some line demarcating bad and worse behavior instead of just saying: "Hey. We might not want to do this."

7:21: Yes. By asking that perhaps we not focus on questions concerning which countries in the international community know about CU's reputation, trying to draw lines between bad and really bad behavior, asking how to quantify "extremely," and so on I'm basically just saying: "You are with us or against us."

Anonymous said...

I get it, Jaded. Taking quotes out of context: good. Making distinctions: bad.

Anonymous said...

Jaded, I *completely* agree with you. However, I expect nothing better in this comment thread. So..."don't read the comments" :(

Anonymous said...

In philosophy, criticising something just is taking it seriously. That's why many conversations in this topic's neighborhood are so boring. Dissent is treated as heresy not a chance for reflection.

One might respond: "the point of the report is to act, not reflect!"

I prefer to think for myself before I act.

Anonymous said...

way to keep your eye on the ball philosophers

Anonymous said...

"some male faculty have been observed ogling undergraduate women students"

I hate this sentence (as well as the occurrence described, but I'm going to anonymously complain about the sentence).

Shouldn't it either be "some men faculty have been observed ogling undergraduate women students" or "some male faculty have been observed ogling undergraduate female students"?!?

Anonymous said...

well, you're right about one thing, anyway: the *guaranteed* pseudo-philosophical, self-righteous rationalizations for ignoring systemic injustice and attacking those who work against it posturing as "dissent" and "thinking" - all for the sake of the salvation of the profession, of course - sure is boring.

Anonymous said...

The Matthen comment's context does not help. The comment makes no sense unless Matthen is claiming that commenting on faculty ogling undergraduates constitutes 'puritanical lip-pursing.' Matthen's comments on anything of social relevance tend to be pretty thick, so I don't think it should be surprising that he does not see what's wrong with what he said.

Anonymous said...

A thread that allows people to post about this anonymously is a great idea!

Seriously, though, do you think the comments won't get derailed by someone asserting that they are being censored for just trying to see the other side(s) of the story?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Mohan's comment about 'puritanical lip-pursing' was characteristically jerky.

But there were some other problems with the report, for sure. See, e.g., http://laughingphilosopherblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/the-colorado-report-beyond-the-cheerleading/

Anonymous said...

+1 for 11:12

LGBTPhilosopher said...

I'm of the opinion that the APA report is poor, and that the Colorado faculty was treated unjustly, but my view has been systematically censored on other message boards; my comments have simply been deleted. The natural conclusion to be drawn is that the facts of the matter do not comport with what people want them to be.

1) I've been involved in discrimination investigations before, and there is NO EXCUSE for such a flimsy case report when it comes to the facts. The APA report is almost entirely devoid of substantive information, so it is impossible to judge whether the actions taken by the administration were appropriate or not. Plus, some of the report is straightforwardly misleading: it cites 15 discrimination complaints but fails to note that 13 of those were found unsubstantiated by the EEO office. Whatever the true number was, that is a relevant fact that ought to be in the report. There are straightforward methodologies to protect privacy in reports like this. These methodologies are used across industries. The fact that the APA authors decided to include no factual information is not just perplexing but against investigatory best practices.

2) I find it very strange that Graeme Forbes has been the target of so much opprobrium. What other Department Chair would invite, unasked, an external visit team to critique one's department? No one forced Forbes to do it--the request came from him and not Colorado's administration. Whatever the "reputation" of Colorado was, surely Forbes was doing the right thing by being proactive and taking positive steps to change the climate. Why, then, would you fire him as Department Chair? I should say that I do not like Forbes (for totally unrelated reasons), but I think one could not reasonably ask for more from a department chair vis-a-vis improving departmental climate. It seems to me that he has been treated unfairly throughout this event.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, are we going to take a NewAPPS discussion as a measure of the profession's view about what happened at Colorado? I hope not. There's a pretty clear pattern to political disputation over there: if you're not with us, you're against us, and anyone against us is so morally corrupt they're due nothing but disdain and mockery (witness all the convolutions that are needed to justify the use of snark). Also, I think this conversation has run its course so I'm going to close comments, and if NN posts here again I'm going to remove the comment and ban him. Don't respond to this.

There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in that philosophy, but you'd never tell by all the moral scolding that goes on in some quarters. Thankfully, at least at NewAPPS, that kind of behavior seems to be localized to a few individuals. But for that very reason I don't think we should be taking a NewAPPS discussion as a representative standard for the profession.

Anonymous said...

Many of the alleged problems cited in that laughingphilosopher post seem dubious as hell.

Anonymous said...

laughingphilosopher's blog post is an excellent example of the kinds of pseudophilosophical justifications that can perpetuate a shitty/chilly (shilly?) climate for women.

I also suspect s/he has been trolling just about every phil blog in order to get people to read her/his crappy justifications and hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

" Thankfully, at least at NewAPPS, that kind of behavior seems to be localized to a few individuals. But for that very reason I don't think we should be taking a NewAPPS discussion as a representative standard for the profession."

+1

Anonymous said...

It was not a fact-finding mission. That should have been done by UC Boulder. It was a report with recommendations for improvement to the culture. As such, it did not have to present for our delectation anything specific that happened, because presumably that would be known to the intended audience (dept and admin at UC). It just had recommendations.

A different LGBTphilosopher said...

1:16

I think you, and likely many others, fail to see the purpose of the report. It is NOT about providing all of the evidence for their findings. If it were, then you're right that it would be woefully incomplete and vague in missing many details. But that's NOT what it's about. It's to compile what they've heard and observed, and to give their recommendations. This report was NOT written to go public.

Anonymous said...

1:32 wins the internet today. Wow. Bang on in your description of NewAPPS.

Anonymous said...

Excellent description, 1:32. Even when I agree with what they are saying, I'm constantly wondering why they have to be such assholes about it.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

1:32: Not taking it to be representative, but as a blog that people seem to frequent, a voice on the internet that is paid attention and worth addressing. I take it no blog on the philosophy blogosphere is representative of ALL philosophy.

Also, 1:43, the Laughing Philosopher post seems pretty, um, out there. But, hey, Leiter promises to address the post on his blog soon!

Jon Cogburn said...

Sorry to threadjack, I'm a big fan of this blog and just wanted to dispute one claim about Newapps by Anonymous 1:32, i.e.
----------
There's a pretty clear pattern to political disputation over there: if you're not with us, you're against us, and anyone against us is so morally corrupt they're due nothing but disdain and mockery (witness all the convolutions that are needed to justify the use of snark).
------------
The implication that we tend to be humorless moral scolds is not without merit (with the exception of Mohan, we're all to varying degrees pretty standard-issue middle class liberals blogging non-anonymously, what do you expect?). However, the bit about "if you're not with us, you're against us" is unfair, especially with respect to this issue. What Matthen posted was inconsistent with Protevi, and both were inconsistent with what I said in discussion and posted, and none of us speak for the other bloggers.

If the blog reads as if there are party lines, this is probably the result of laziness on our part. . .

On a non-threadjacky note, I do wish laughingphilosopher all the best (I am not being sarcastic), but the resort to sock puppetry here, at Newapps, and at Anonymous Philosophers is wearing very thin! This kind of thing can end up derailing any interesting discussion one might have about Jaded Ph.D's post, which seems right on to me.

More importantly, I *do* think the discussion *here* sometimes does achieve the level of what the profession *should* think about many issues. Sadly, with respect to the above discussion we are seeing a little bit of evidence of the very thing decried in the post itself.

Anonymous said...

Though I fully admit that men are far and away statistically more likely to engage in inappropriate behavior, it should be noted that this issue is not restricted to male faculty. At my own institution, the greatest perpetrator of questionable sexual engagement with students is a female faculty member. I'm not sure her actions constitute harassment. But they are widely recognized as scandalous and have brought about significant practical consequences for other members of the department.

In general I think we should talk about appropriate faculty student relations. There are, of course, good reasons for the emphasis to be on male faculty. But to do so exclusively I think misses the heart of the problem. There are just certain ways to behave qua faculty regardless of gender.

Anonymous said...

1. X believes that P.
2. Y believes that P.
3. Z believes that P.
4. I do not believe that P.
5. Therefore, X = Y and Y = Z.
6. Therefore, they're all a bunch of sock puppets.

There's logic for you.

Anonymous said...

Jon: Wake up. Your example of 'internal dissent' at New Apps proves less than nothing. If anyone had written on a comment thread anything like what Matthen posted on the blog, they would have been ripped to shreds by the main bloggers, with Lance and Protevi leading the charge. I suspect you know this. It was pretty funny imagining those guys biting their tongues till they bled. But something had to give, so all their fury was displaced onto Showalter, who came closest of anyone on the thread to defending Matthen. The absolute crowning perfection came when Matthen broke his long silence to slap down Showalter, denouncing his posts as boring after boasting about not having bothered to read any of them, and warning him he would be banned if he so much as replied.

Anonymous said...

"There's logic for you."

Yeah, except that they all have made-up names, they all have exactly the same views and writing style, they come out of the woodwork to defend each other, and (according to Protevi) they all have the same IP address. I have a 5-spot that says it's justinfromcanada.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cogburn. This is 1:32. First, let me say that if I had been thinking more clearly I would have explicitly excepted you from the remark I made above. You are someone who frequents NewAPPS that, from what I've seen, is consistently interested in productive conversation involving political disagreement. I don't want to speak for anyone else who's agreed with me here (none of whom am I identical with), but I for one would have a much more favorable opinion of that place if the Protevis and Matthens were a bit more like Cogburn.

That said, I think my analysis stands, even (especially) the part about "you're either with us, or against us." The fact that you can point to what, from the outside, look like minor intratribal disputes does nothing to show that, when it comes to the tribe's interactions with others, there's not a unified 'us vs. them' front when it comes to political dispute. The remarks I made in characterizing what the 'with us or against us' attitude comes to in practice:

"anyone against us is so morally corrupt they're due nothing but disdain and mockery (witness all the convolutions that are needed to justify the use of snark). Also, I think this conversation has run its course so I'm going to close comments, and if NN posts here again I'm going to remove the comment and ban him. Don't respond to this."

applies at least to both Matthen and Protevi. And you might consider the extent to which others share this assessment of NewAPPS--the comments above are some indication I'm not the only one who feels this way. Don't take the fact that this assessment doesn't come up often in the circles you move in to be proof that it is not common among those familiar with what goes on over there. It shouldn't be too surprising that a group of moral scolds (as you graciously concede is a characterization 'not without merit') will run off critical dissenters.

And Jaded, I hope you're paying attention to the conversation about NewAPPS. You started this thread and quickly accepted, at 7:47 on Feb. 6th, that your view is precisely "you're either with us, or against us." As was said above--you are yourself part of one of the problems here. Do not assume that those who disagree with you about the particulars of a set of practices you're smitten with (and convinced of the righteousness of) do not share your moral values.

More specifically, do not contribute to this ridiculous perspective on which to question whether the profession ought to be in all things satisfied with the APA committee's influence on Boulder's reorganization is to attack or otherwise impede the effort to see to it that our profession and its members are more just. I think Showalter's posts at laughingphilosopher go some way toward showing that there are worthwhile debates to be had about whether the committee's recommendations, and the influence its report has had on the administration's actions and on media discussions of things at Colorado and in the profession more generally, will in fact help or harm the aims of the committee (and I am not Showalter, for those of you worried about sockpuppetry).

We should be very wary about placing any topic beyond the pale of critical discussion, or supposing that the adherents of one standpoint in the debate are corrupt or without good faith; to do so in intellectual disputation is one sort of vice, but to do so in discourse about political action is particularly insidious. This principle is about as basic to a free society as there can be. Let's try to remember that before we go moralizing as evil those who question our political practices.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute 6:54. Protevi told us that Showalter and Suzanne Southam were using the same IP address, and Showalter claimed that this was his partner. Southam only posted twice, though, and her remarks are short and look nothing like Showalter's. So what the hell are you talking about?

Anonymous said...

6:52: YES.

Cogburn:

"...the bit about "if you're not with us, you're against us" is unfair, especially with respect to this issue. What Matthen posted was inconsistent with Protevi, and both were inconsistent with what I said in discussion and posted, and none of us speak for the other bloggers."

Yes, and Hannity and O'Reilly disagreed about X, Y, and Z, and look there's Shep Smith, and of course none of them speaks for Fox News Incorporated. As Lance put it, "politics always look clearer on the other side of the fence".

Anonymous said...

Amen 6:52. For the life of me I couldn't understand the reaction to Showalter's extremely sensible analysis. This didn't seem like a bunch of philosophers. It looked like a bunch of fanatical, theory soaked people from the bad old pomo days. Any criticism of their shitty theory was taken as an attack on the cause. I remember hearing philosophers called conservatives for criticizing Theory and believing in truth. Gasp!

Now I get to see the same shit happening in philosophy. If you think that the report used a biased survey, rests on shaky evidence (which includes ogling, whatever that might be, and dismissed complaints), and recommends ridiculous "family friendly" measures which will destroy the department, then you are the devil. You might as well propose a casting couch for applicants. It's black and white, simple, clear cut: you are with us or against us.

Notice how few people were willing to say anything critical of the report non-anonymously. I fear that I should have posted this using TOR. This should raise some eyebrows. Why is it that people are so afraid to publicly disagree?

I think the answer is pretty clear. The bulk of the New Apps folk will come out against critics as a big PC lynch mob. Fuck that blog. It's shameful to the profession.

There was no opportunity for rational disagreement on that thread. Showalter is my new hero.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

1:32: I was being sarcastic about saying that "You're either with us or you're against us." Sheesh.

Were Matthen's post at NewAPPS and the comment by Leiter about "re-education" written by students I would've commented on their papers: "Does not engage with substantive issues, instead focuses on nitpicking, and raises unrealistic worries."

Seriously: You're going to defend asking about quantifying "extremely" and raising worries about "re-education?" You think that raising concerns about the way faculty engage with undergraduates is simply "puritanical lip-pursing?"

Criticize away. But make your criticisms substantial and don't use demands for clarity or information as a way to avoid discussing substantive issues.

To endorse a report is not to accept everything in it. To reject these sorts of criticisms of the report are tone-deaf or wrongheaded or miss the forest for the trees or way too defensive is not to endorse everything in the report.

If you think all this just amounts to "You're either with us or you're against us," well, then, I don't know what I can do about that.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jaded--this is 1:32 again. I hope you understand that if you say your view is 'you're either with us or against us,' and it looks that way from the outside, then people are going to accept that this is your view. But I'm sorry I didn't catch your sarcasm.

The rest of your remarks mislocate the objections raised. There's nothing nitpicking about wanting a report that an administration uses as justification to drastically re-organize a department to be a report that is composed in a manner commensurate with that use. Notice that in response to LGBTphilosopher's quite sensible complaints about the report, we are told that the reason the report had the shortcomings it did was because it was not meant to be a conclusive summary of the facts--indeed, we're supposed to be reassured that "This report was NOT written to go public." For fuck's sake, that's part of the problem. Not only did it go public, but it became the basis for an administrative reorganization of the department. Even if that was, all things considered, the best thing to have happen, the WAY it happened is not beyond criticism.

There are real problems with an APA-sanctioned committee having this much de facto power over individual departments. If, as seems to be the case, a vocal contingent of our profession expects us to just accept this and toe the line, I think those of us who have a different perspective on these issues need to start speaking up more publically about them.

Anonymous said...

"Southam only posted twice, though, and her remarks are short and look nothing like Showalter's. So what the hell are you talking about?"

They're short, but other than that they're exactly like Showalter's. She also mentions fox news, which happens suspiciously often when a person with a made up name chimes in on a philosophy comment thread to defend another person with a made up name. Somehow it always seems to happen in discussions revolving around feminism and the profession. Hmmmm.

I can't prove it, and I might be wrong, but my money's on sockpuppets.

"For the life of me I couldn't understand the reaction to Showalter's extremely sensible analysis."

Yeah, all he did was say that the external chair that the department voted in favor of was a puppet dictator and compared the site visit committee to the Nuremberg prosecutors. Who could disagree with such a sensible guy!

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

NEWS ALERT:

The lack of spaces for 7:50 to rationally disagree about a report on the internet is equivalent to a PC LYNCH MOB, guys. That's right, A LYNCH MOB!

Again. Another response that is way, way too defensive.

I wish that this hadn't turned into a dispute about a dispute on a comments thread over at NewAPPS. Or been about NewAPPS entirely. Or that people were saying NewAPPS is what's wrong with the profession.

I wish this had been about the report and ways to engage with it substantively.

The profession itself is what is wrong with the profession. The discussion on this blog, other blogs, the stuff in the report by the APA, and so on make that clear.

Anonymous said...

Jaded's my new hero.

It seems like everyone who is against this report is just using a really shitty argument. They all seem to be saying one of three things:

(1) "It doesn't contain enough information." The report is not supposed to contain enough details for you, or anyone other than the members of the dept/admin, to make a considered judgment about its findings either way. It was written for the dept/admin, who have more knowledge about the background and context of this investigation. In other words, this argument is a total red herring.

(2) "The behaviors it describes (ogling) are not serious." I especially don't get this one, as it strikes me as very inappropriate for TT or T faculty to openly objectify undergraduate women in a manner such that it is even obvious to bystanders that they are doing so. Where the hell do you work where this isn't seen as wildly inappropriate?

(3) The use ridiculous hyperbole like "These family friendly measures will destroy the department!" Many people seem to be claiming that requiring department-sponsored events to happen during business hours without alcohol will "DESTROY THE DEPARTMENT" or otherwise impede the ability of philosophers to do their jobs. This is ridiculous. The department will continue to function without listservs, evening drinking fests, and weekend retreats (in fact, many departments do). People will teach classes, write papers, go to conferences, interact with their colleagues, etc. And, as an added bonus, no one will have the opportunity to sexually exploit vulnerable groups.)

If anything, the objections to the measures that were taken are puritanical, as they all seem to be based on the view that one should never EVER compromise departmental autonomy in order to rectify larger, more pervasive problems. I simply cannot understand this view, and I do not, for the life of me, see how anyone could find this persuasive unless the argument was serving as a thinly veiled disguise for sexism. Perhaps it is because of this feature of my psychology that I, like many people at NewAPPS, tend to be inclined to think that anyone who objects to the report is doing so because of some kind of bias in favor of the patriarchal.

Anonymous said...

"I wish this had been about the report and ways to engage with it substantively.

"The profession itself is what is wrong with the profession. The discussion on this blog, other blogs, the stuff in the report by the APA, and so on make that clear."

Exactly.

Anonymous said...

Uh... Jaded...

7:50 didn't say that people who didn't make spaces available for his/her comments are a lynch mob.

(S)he suggested that the reason why all the critics of the report are hiding in anonymity is that, if someone were to publicly criticize the report, that person would be attacked by a sort of lynch mob.

That's a vastly different thing.

Do you disagree? Do you think that, if a member of the philosophical community were to openly criticize the report, there would be no professional repercussions against him or her? Do you think that people might respectfully disagree with him or her but would otherwise leave him or her alone, without dragging his or her name through the gutter on blogs and in gossip, trying to dig up dirt on him or her, etc.?

Please confirm that this is what you mean, if you didn't just misread 7:50.

Anonymous said...

6.52 here again. Perhaps I should mention that not only am I not identical with Showalter, I also disagree with much of what he says and find some of it pretty silly.

8.26: 'I... tend to be inclined to think that anyone who objects to the report is doing so because of some kind of bias in favor of the patriarchal' (my emphasis). I don't have any particular objections to the report, and it seems to me that none of the people supporting it or criticizing it could possibly know enough to be doing either. But that's really breathtaking.

I know the whole New Apps-bashing thing is a bit of a distraction, but I couldn't resist noting the following, for the delectation of connoisseurs of comment-thread bullying. Protevi had quoted the Climate Committee statement welcoming the APA visitors' report as evidence that they were 'pleased' with its recommendations. Showalter suggested that the statement might have been made in an atmospehere of 'duress'. Protevi responded with merciless ridicule, referring to 'this terrible "duress" that you are not at all conjuring out of thin air to avoid being a laughingstock'.

But what's this we see in the Daily Camera, published the same day as the Climate Committee statement went up at Fem Phil? Forbes wrote in an email to the CU dept, two days after receiving the site visit report, 'In some parts of the administration, this report has made the idea of dissolving the department appealing'. CU faculty member M Zimmerman is quoted as saying 'The threat of dissolution of the department was hanging in the background... . After the administrators left, we talked among each other and said, "My gosh, we have to toe the line," because it looked like any transgression was going to invite them to follow through on that threat to dissolve the department'.

Oops.

NB It may of course very well be, that the Climate Cttee's statement more than two months later, welcoming measures imposed by the administration, was not distorted by duress consequent upon veiled or open threats from the administration to shut down the dept entirely. But that's not the point.

Thankfully the whole thing was cleared up by a retraction and apology from Protevi. Not.

Anonymous said...

8:26, anyone who objects to any part of the report is doing so because of patriarchal bias??

I think overall it's good that there was a site visit, on the whole the report is useful, and I'm sure the committee is to be commended. But some elements look badly wrong-headed to me, and even dangerous.

Also, I am tenured, and I don't think dissenting on this sort of thing would bring down any serious professional repercussions on me, but I am really reluctant to comment under my own name because of what others are calling, perhaps somewhat hyperbolically, a lynch mob mentality. I think it's really a shame that NewAPPS is poisoned by that mentality, because they bring up great issues and tend to have sensible views. The crushing of dissent is very intimidating, though, even for someone who's quite safe, as I am.

NotShowalter said...

Hi 8:26. Thank you for these thoughtful point-by-point considerations. I'd like to respond to them (fyi for the sockpuppet paranoids, I've been posting as 1:32). Please understand I don't presume to speak for everyone here.

1. The complaint, as I see it, is not that there isn't enough information in the report. The complaint is that for the report to have been used as it has, it comes up short in certain ways (have a look at Showalter's blog and the conversation beginning over there if you'd like to get into the particulars--though I don't want to be presumed to agree with every criticism he raises).

2. This is a fair point, and I agree that 'ogling' can and should be used as a consideration in these situations. We can presume, given the context, that there were specific occasions when someone did or said something that was inappropriate, and that this is what the term is picking up for those in the know.

3. I don't think you're being particularly fair to the poster you're responding to. It's true that there was a bit of hyperbole, but the comment itself was not so extreme as all that. And I think the underlying point is sound. If I were to teach at a place like Boulder, one of the key draws would be the outdoors activity I could engage in. To ban retreats at Boulder will change the culture there, and we can all agree (I hope) that there is a preponderance of evidence that shows the culture ought to be changed. But it seems a bit quick to say, as you do, that in making these changes "no one will have the opportunity to sexually exploit vulnerable groups." Sure, that's what these changes are *aimed at*, but there's a debate to be had about whether, in fact, this is a good way to realize those aims (again, I direct you to Showalter's blog).

NotShowalter said...

Continued.

I do think your final remark is telling 8:26, and I'd like to dwell on it for a bit:

"I, like many people at NewAPPS, tend to be inclined to think that anyone who objects to the report is doing so because of some kind of bias in favor of the patriarchal."

Look at what you've said here. You suppose that ANYONE who objects to the report is doing so because of 'bias in favor of the patriarchal.' That you can so blatantly assert this is evidence of your strength of character, and I applaud you for being so open (I am being sincere here, please don't read me as snarking).

But this comment is also, I contend, a function of bad habits of thought (which you seem to admit the possibility of with your hedge about your personal psychology). The idea that those conversing in this debate can be divided into "feminist" and "patriarchal" camps is the source of so much confusion and social discord in our little bit of the here and now that we ought to be more careful about perpetuating it. That this dichotomizing and politically motivated categorization of our profession gets a free pass in some quarters is maddening. It's as if I were some neo-Hegelian charging around telling everyone the World Spirit was moving through me and my cronies, building arcane rhetorical narratives for propagating our own brand of ideology and practice, and systematically categorizing those who disagreed with us as the vestige of outmoded forms of thought, the dross of a progressive trend that only I and my fellows are a part of.

If nothing else, please take opportunities like this to consider other perspectives on the world. Let me suggest an alternative in this case--there are in many political debates revolutionary and reactionary forces. I think we can see them at work here. But we should not suppose that just because someone is a reactionary about, e.g., supporting APA-sanctioned committees whose reports are used by university administrations in the way this report was, that such a person is *also* a reactionary about, e.g., encouraging APA-sanctioned committees to assess general issues of 'climate' at individual departments and compose reports on that basis. (And again, I'd like to thank you for being so direct and polite; please forgive me if I have failed to be the same in response.)

Anonymous said...

8:26 here. Thanks for taking away the context of my comment 6:52. My point (which was very obvious) was that I could not see how anyone could endorse any of those three arguments, as they're shit arguments. Since no one seems to have any better arguments, I'm inclined to think that most of the people criticizing the report are doing so for less-than-intellectually-honest reasons.

And what, exactly, is breathtaking? That I think all the arguments against the report are so shitty that no rational person would endorse them? 'Cause that's all I was saying.

Also, what exactly is the point about duress supposed to show? Other than an ad hominem against Protevi?

Anonymous said...

About ogling: The report mentions the ogling in an offhand way, assuming that we are supposed to see the hideous outrage. We are asked to assume the worst. But I have no idea what they mean or why we should believe it.

Did someone see one of the profs doing a knuckle walk with his tongue hanging out, eyes bulging as he hopped up and down hooting and pointing at some undergrads cleavage? That would be very troublesome. Or did someone suspect that a prof. was looking at some student's ass in the wrong way as she went up the stairs? Puritanical lip pursing.

What are we talking about? I don't accept an interview report that there was ogling as saying very much at all. All we know is that someone thought they saw something. But looking is easy to misinterpret.

I'm not saying that there wasn't any seriously inappropriate, uncomfortable staring. And I'm not saying that we should dismiss that. Clearly we shouldn't. But I have no idea what to believe based on the report. Given what we know of the methodology here, we should be very suspicious.

The problem is that the ogling episode functions in the report as one of the key outrages. Depending on what we are talking about, the recommendations are radically disproportionate to the offenses. That's the worry. Not that a serious kind of visual harassment should be overlooked.

Anonymous said...

8:26 one more time.

My point was to explain part of the 'with us or against us' mentality. I am still of the opinion that everyone who has voiced dissent has done a subpar job of doing so. A consequence of this is that I am suspicious of anyone I have seen doing so. I therefore cannot help but be suspicious about these people's motives/views.

If this were not a bunch of philosophers talking, I'd chalk these bad arguments up to ignorance. But since we all argue professionally, it seems likely that these people are (maybe without realizing it) motivated not by 'truth' but by a thought more like 'fuck those feminists.'

Now, as several of you noted (and several of you didn't), I'm not saying this inference is justified. I'm also not saying that there is no possible way to express dissent on this issue without being a woman-hater. I'm simply trying to explain why someone like myself or Jaded (although I do not want to speak for Jaded), might say some things that stink of a 'with us or against us' false dilemma.

I'm still not persuaded by any of the claims on Showalter's blog, but I don't have time to engage right now (class!), and I don't see how these policies will be anything more than an inconvenience for the faculty members at CU Boulder. This is still my position, so I still have some (obviously defeasible) evidence that all things considered, we as a profession should support the report.

Anonymous said...

9.30 / 8.26: You didn't say 'anyone who endorses any of these three arguments'. You didn't even say 'everyone whose objections to the report I have come across'. You said 'anyone who objects to the report'. No amount of 'context' is going to make it 'very obvious' that what you meant was something completely different from what you said.

What's breathtaking is not that very different thing you now claim you meant, but what you actually said: anyone who objects to the report is biased in favor of patriarchy.

On the 'duress' thing: I just thought it was a funny story. And I'm not entirely sure you know what 'ad hominem' means.

Random, baseless sockpuppetry accuser said...

Just to stir the pot a bit, I hereby suggest on laughably weak evidence that all anonymous pro-report comments are sock puppets of John Protevi, Westcoastfeminist is a sock puppet of Mark Lance, and Rodolfo is a sock puppet of Mohan Matthen.

It's a stretch, but hey, isn't that the name of the game?

The Un-Dude said...

The claim that the report lacks specificity seems to forget one very important starting premise: CU knew they had a climate problem when they invited the visit; in fact, they knew what specific problems they had. CU wasn't looking for a confirmation of what they knew and so we shouldn't ask the report to produce that confirmation.

Anonymous said...

8:26 again:

To 9:45: Sorry. I should have said "...inclined to think that anyone who endorses any of the three arguments I have seen, which are exhaustive of all the complaints I have seen against the report, is a mysoginstic, pro-patriarchy asshole."

If you read the sentence immediately before the one you are criticizing, you can see evidence that I was saying that I cannot comprehend the main assumption that all the arguments I have read seem to be based upon, and that it is THAT feature of my psychology that leads people like me to make the 'with us or against us' judgments. When we see nothing but the same shitty arguments used by a (probably) very small handful of people, it becomes easy to conclude that their motives are political rather than philosophical. I thought the context and meaning of my comment was clear, but apparently it wasn't.

Regarding the ad hominem, I understood your own comment as trying to respond to mine, since you started off insulting my last sentence (after taking it out of context). So, I assumed that your attack on one individual (for not apologizing or some other stupid thing) was meant to serve as an attack on the view that he and others (including me) espouse. That, if you had intended it, would be an ad hominem.

And finally, let me just add that by nitpicking my comment and ignoring the broader context, you are engaging in the exact kind of pseudophilosophical enterprise that is mentioned in the report, and is in fact the main problem with the members of our profession.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

Someone else has pointed out that many of the critical takes on the report rely on conjecture/bad argumentation.

*THAT'S* the problem, not criticism itself. Criticize away, but criticize charitably and learnedly and proportion your claims to the evidence available to you.

The critics - and those who agree with them - are up in arms because the "punishment," i.e., the recommendations seem disproportionate to the "crimes." (See Laughing Philosopher's post.) So for example, the recommendation that the CU department not have functions outside normal work hours seems outrageous in light of the only infraction called out in the report, "ogling of female undergraduates."

Notice the important qualifier: "seem." Notice the assumption built in that "ogling" is a small infraction. Notice that the evidence available to us is second-hand and slight.

Here's the thing: If you trust yourself - as a philosopher, as a rational agent, as a reasonable human - to draw conclusions about CU and what is and isn't a good course of action to take on the basis of second-hand, slight information, then you should probably trust people who share all the same qualities you have as a philosopher/rational agent/reasonable human to make judgments on the basis of direct, fuller information than that which you have.

The claim that "ogling" isn't that bad - just "puritanical lip-pursing" - that the recommendation we not openly dismiss other approaches as outright bunk as constituting "re-education," that when you disagree with the report you feel like you are risking a lynch mob (A FUCKING LYNCH MOB?!?!?) coming after you, TIP YOUR MOTHERFUCKING HAND THAT YOU DON'T JUST CARE ABOUT HAVING A RATIONAL DISCUSSION.

So far, the critics of the report seem to care about the findings in the report inasmuch as they feel their philosophical way of life and academic way of life as threatened, for whatever reason, by the findings.

Something in the report touched a nerve. Philosophers are no longer going to sit around silent while colleagues trash other disciplines they might not know anything about. Philosophers are no longer going to sit idly by when someone senior to them makes them feel uncomfortable with an off-color racist or sexist joke about an undergraduate. Philosophers are not going to put up with a senior colleague staring too long at some undergraduate during class. Philosophers are no longer going to identify solely with their job, organize their lives around it, and they will still manage to do good work and be good colleagues, even if they don't attend receptions and get drunk.

Shit's changing. And I'd be scared too if I weren't so glad that shit's changing. So go on pretending that you just want a rational discussion about the report; your lack of substantial, informed criticisms belie your true intentions.

Anonymous said...

"Rodolfo is a sock puppet of Mohan Matthen"

Yeah. Whenever Mohan shows up, so does Rodolfo, posting from the same IP address. It's totally exactly the same.

Anonymous said...

"I, like many people at NewAPPS, tend to be inclined to think that anyone who objects to the report is doing so because of some kind of bias in favor of the patriarchal."

As February 7, 2014 at 5:55 AM said earlier, it ain't just dudes that engage in inappropriate sexual behavior.

Anonymous said...

*Reads Jaded's most recent comment*

*Swoons*

NotShowalter said...

You are not being fair to the dialectic Jaded. That 'someone' you refer to was 8:26/9:30/9:43/11:08, and s/he did not say that 'many' of the criticisms of the report rely on bad argumentation, but that "all the arguments" s/he has read fall into this camp. And s/he said this after ignoring my point-by-point response to him/her above and begging not to have had time to respond to Showalter. If s/he or you find something wrong with what I or someone else has said, please have the courtesy of addressing it directly before you go stringing together unkempt associations between those who disagree with you and Teh Patriarchy. It might help you see things more clearly.

You will notice, for instance, that in my comment above I explicitly agree that Matthen's remark about 'puritanical lip-pursing' seems wrong to me, and for much the reasons you suggest. Yet in your most recent post you rail against Matthen's remark as if it was uncontested, and use it as a basis for your claim that those who disagree with you are using 'bad argumentation.'

More generally, I find it astounding that you and 8:26/etc. concede that your assessments of your interlocutors are driven by your political commitments and brute speculation about their motivations, while steadfastly refusing to consider the possibility that this is itself a function of your own biases and is, as such, obstructing your ability to think clearly about what's being said. It is striking that those who ought to be familiar with the influence that hidden biases can have on our immediate assessments of and behavior toward others, and who confess (as 9:43 does) to be making their transitions in thought on the basis of sentimental association rather than rational inference, should nevertheless be so self-righteous in their assessment of the shortcomings of those who disagree with them.

You write:

"the critics of the report seem to care about the findings in the report inasmuch as they feel their philosophical way of life and academic way of life as threatened, for whatever reason, by the findings"

I'll do without your armchair psychoanalyzing, thank you. You know fuck-all about my place in this profession, or about how I conceive of and participate in my role in the "academic way of life".

9:48 is even more revealing on this front:

"I am still of the opinion that everyone who has voiced dissent has done a subpar job of doing so. A consequence of this is that I am suspicious of anyone I have seen doing so. I therefore cannot help but be suspicious about these people's motives/views....it seems likely that these people are (maybe without realizing it) motivated not by 'truth' but by a thought more like 'fuck those feminists.'"

Thank you for the explanation as to how you came to hold the view you have. But as you confess, your coming to hold this view is not a matter of rational inference. These habits of thought are fit for rousing the sentiments of the partisans of your view, but they are worthless when it comes to engaging constructively with those who do not share your view.

J W Showalter said...

Hi, Jaded. 'Laughing Philosopher' here.

I'm afraid you've misread my motivation for objecting to the restriction on 'outside business hours' activities in the report. You seem to think that I feel they are a 'punishment' disproportionate to the crime of sexual harassment.

That's not my objection at all. I agree that sexual harassment, which we know has been substantiated in at least two cases at Colorado, should be dealt with seriously. But the restrictions advocated by the report don't seem to be intended punitively at all. They appear to be intended as a preventative measure.

Now, I don't deny that having such restrictions in place might work. And that would be a good thing. But there are also other, surer ways of preventing sexual harassment. Here's a fairly sure-fire one: members of the department may only communicate in person, during official classes or meetings or office hours. All these events must be attended by trained anti-harassment officers, and all communication must be done through them (you have to whisper your words to the officers and, if they're appropriate, they report them to your audience). All students and faculty are prohibited on pain of expulsion/automatic firing from coming within 20 yards of all other department members outside of class, and this is monitored by temporarily bio-implanted GPS devices. And so on.

Now, I would agree that such extreme measures would be very effective in curbing sexual harassment. And no doubt, the case might convincingly be made that good philosophical work could be done under those conditions. But I would nevertheless be opposed to them, and not just for reasons of expense.

I take a similar view to the much less extreme measures recommended by the report. Yes, they would probably prevent some potential harassment; yes, it might still be possible to do philosophy within those confines (and some department members might even like it). And I can vaguely imagine some extraordinary conditions in which I might even advocate what the report recommends. But from the picture I'm getting, it's difficult to imagine that the measures are warranted as a professional measure.

I'll append this as an addendum to my blog post to avoid future confusion. Thanks.

metamorphic said...

Jaded, you are awesome, btw.

I think the bloggers here should consider a new rule. You post anonymously only until you start a TT job (postdocs, VAPS, etc. are excepted). Then, you don't get to post anonymously. You have to use a pseudonymous handle; not your real name, but a consistent handle to identify with your commenting.

Once you get tenure, you post under your real name or you don't post at all (unless you have some reeeeaaaaallly good reason, I suppose).

Anonymity should protect those with less power in the profession, not serve as a shield for those who already have power. This is a blog to provide space for people whose future still has that huge white wall of uncertainty with respect to getting stable employment.

In light of this and other recent discussions, I get the feeling that this commentary forum is sometimes abused for schadenfreudistic reasons by those whose employment is entirely secure.

NotShowalter said...

Hi Metamorphic--what do you think about 9:18's comment above?

Mr. Zero said...

But the restrictions advocated by the report don't seem to be intended punitively at all. They appear to be intended as a preventative measure.

My understanding is that this is exactly right. The department, as a group, understood that it had an ongoing problem with sexual harassment, and that this had created a hostile climate. The department, the dean, and the provost invited the committee to visit the department and make recommendations as to how the climate might be improved. So yes, the recommendations are preventative measures, because that's what they were asked to provide.

And I can vaguely imagine some extraordinary conditions in which I might even advocate what the report recommends.

How do you know the conditions at Colorado weren't extraordinary?

That's not to say that I know that the conditions at Colorado were extraordinary. I don't. But it sounds like they had a pretty serious problem, or, at least, they took themselves to have a serious problem. And that's not to say that I agree with every recommendation the report makes. Some of them seem to be at least potentially more trouble than they're worth. And, of course, it's possible my understanding of the case is all wrong.

But this idea that the report shouldn't suggest ways to prevent further instances of inappropriate behavior is incorrect--that's exactly what the committee was asked to do. And the idea that the report can be faulted for making these suggestions without first illustrating that the problems at Colorado were severe is also incorrect--the department already knew the problems were severe, and that's why they commissioned the report.

That's what I heard, anyway.

J W Showalter said...

Thanks, Mr. Zero.

Like you, I don't know the details of what happened at Colorado. But from piecing together what I've seen not just in the report but in the CU climate committee's response on feministphilosophers and in the news articles that interviewed present and former department members, my sense is that there were a few relatively isolated incidents of sexual harassment that the department nonetheless took very seriously and sought to deal with -- not just by reporting the harasser or harassers, but by forming a climate committee to make further recommendations.

The strong impression I get from all this is that harassment did happen but this was not a general departmental culture that thought it was no big deal: it was an isolated set of problems that most department members were keen to prevent.

Under those circumstances, I think it would have been appropriate to recommend that the offending party or parties limit their activities to business hours, and so on, for the safety of others.

However, to restrict the entire department from having any official or even unofficial meetings after 5pm, and so on, seems to me to significantly damage the philosophical experience for everyone. Why should the great majority of faculty and students who never did any harassing have to be limited in such a way just because of some harassment cases most of them never heard of? If I were a student in that department, I'd be rightly pissed about that.

Again, I want to stress that I think that could be warranted in extraordinary circumstances. For instance, if all the male faculty members and half the male grad students were randy old goats who couldn't keep their hands off the women in the department (just as the Slate and Gawker editorials suggest), and if they were so blinded in their commitment to a harassment culture that even the threat of termination couldn't help keep their johnsons in their pants for five minutes in the presence of women, then yeah, I could certainly see good reason for not permitting activities after 5pm.

But nothing I've seen indicates that the departmental culture is really like that there; and if it were, then it wouldn't be safe to allow them to interact with women in other contexts, either. If it were really _that_ bad, contrary to everything that's now coming out from and about the department, shouldn't the committee have recommended that the whole department be dissolved as some in the administration already wished?

Anonymous said...

Look, I'm someone who spent some time at Boulder as a graduate student. For anyone who would like to cut the bullshit, here's my two cents: there were serious problems with the climate in this department. I take it that what is so offensive to many about some of the criticisms of the report is that they serve to sweep this fact under the rug.

Think about it - even if you have reasonable criticisms of the report (and, of course, there may be grounds for thinking there are, the site visit program is brand new and as such will not be perfect), how on earth has THIS become the focus of discussion on this topic? Fact: a very prominent program has been outed as a very hostile place for women and feminist philosophers to work. Fact: not every member of this program is awful, and in fact many Boulder folks are fantastic philosophers and colleagues who found themselves in a bad situation that was very difficult to fix. Fact: the site visit was one effort on behalf of the good guys to try to straighten this shit out.

Now, why the fuck are we spending so much time on these catty arguments back and forth on issues surrounding the report and attacking the good guys? Why the fuck aren't we discussing whether or not the steps taken to remedy this problem are good ones, and whether more programs should be looking to follow suit on this (maybe they shouldn't - that's a good focus of further discussion, but none of the current criticisms have given it center stage)? THAT'S what we should be talking about here, not splitting hairs about how bad the problem was. It was bad. Stop calling (or insinuating that) the folks who have said this are liars, or lip pursing feminists. They are not. Have a little goddamn epistemic humility and take what the people who have actually been harmed by this situation seriously. Criticize the report if you want, by all means, but DO NOT do it by implying that some egregious wrong has been done to the Boulder department, or that the problems with this department can be interpreted in such a way that everything has been blown out of proportion. It hasn't. There was some bad stuff going on there. If nothing else, please take that seriously in your criticisms.

Mr. Zero said...

But from piecing together what I've seen not just in the report but in the CU climate committee's response on feministphilosophers and in the news articles that interviewed present and former department members, my sense is that there were a few relatively isolated incidents of sexual harassment

That doesn't make sense to me. There were 15 official complaints about about sexual harassment. I guess only 2 of them were "substantiated," but (as has been pointed out numerous times) there are lots of reasons why a complaint might not be "substantiated" other than "nothing bad or wrong happened." Maybe 13 of those complaints didn't rise to the level of actionable harassment, but nevertheless contributed to an overall environment that was, by all accounts, intensely hostile and unfriendly. I don't know. But I do know that people were avoiding the department, doing most of their work from home, declining to attend department functions, etc. Sounds bad. Sounds like the "philosophical experience" in that department was already pretty damaged for everyone. Which is why the department initiated the site visit in the first place.

Of course, it's possible that I am wrong, and everything was hunky-dory. But it certainly doesn't seem that way.

that the department nonetheless took very seriously and sought to deal with -- not just by reporting the harasser or harassers, but by forming a climate committee to make further recommendations.

I totally agree with you there. It seems to me that the department at Boulder did exactly what you'd want a department in that situation, that had that problem, to do. Which is why this whole thing would have to be extraordinarily, incredibly, remarkably frustrating--to have the administration release the report publicly without telling you first, airing your dirty laundry in public, followed by hatchet jobs in Slate and Gawker, etc. Jesus, what a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with 5:03 (and with Jaded's comments too). I'm horrified that there is so much bullshit in the online philosophy blogs about the report. We all know that philosophy has a gender problem; anyone who doubts this only needs to go look at the What it's like to be a woman in philosophy blog. Having talked to women philosophers in other departments, it seems clear to me that Colorado is not an isolated incident, and that other departments seriously need to examine their climate for women.

In addition, I'm really surprised that so many (?) people consider the report's suggestions puritanical. My department is actually fairly close to what the report suggests. We do take invited speakers speakers out to dinner, but other than that all our functions are over by six, and there is very little booze. Sometimes I wish my department was more social, but I would hardly describe it as puritanical.

Anonymous said...

Having talked to women philosophers in other departments, it seems clear to me that Colorado is not an isolated incident, and that other departments seriously need to examine their climate for women.

Are campus visits the only way for PhD applicants to find this kind of stuff out?

J W Showalter said...

Thanks, Mr. Zero. You know, I'm not really sure you and I disagree over this issue. We both think that something serious should have been done (and that the department was taking good steps to do it), and that it was a complete disaster that the report was released to the general public and hence led to horrible smear jobs about philosophy in Slate and Gawker.

As for the 15 harassment complaints, well, it's possible that they were cases of serious wrongdoing that "didn't rise to the level of actionable harassment, but nevertheless contributed to an overall environment that was, by all accounts, intensely hostile and unfriendly." If that's true, it's also possible that it was just one or two people doing the harassing. It's also possible, for all you or I know, that some or all of those additional complaints were unsubstantiated because there was nothing to them. False and vexatious complaints are sometimes made, as I'm sure you won't deny! So as far as we know from this, there might have been two cases of serious harassment, and there might have been five, and there might have been fifteen, and there might have been a thousand. And as far as those numbers tell us, the actual harassment may have been done by one, two, or fifteen faculty members. We can only speculate. But we can also only speculate about what's happening in any other department. You or I might work in a department with the all-time sexual harassment record without knowing it, for all we know. But I don't think those 'what ifs' warrant the rather extreme measures advocated by the department. If we stick with what we know, we're looking at at least two harassment cases by at least one person: that's as far as we can get without speculation.

You write: "But I do know that people were avoiding the department, doing most of their work from home, declining to attend department functions, etc."

Well, that's what the report _alleges_. And perhaps it's true: if so, then perhaps one or two departmental harassers harassed two or three or twelve separate people, and some subset of those people understandably did their work from home in order to avoid the one or two harassers. If so, is that a serious problem? Of course! Nobody should be subjected to that kind of stress and feel uncomfortable in her/his own department just because there's an inappropriate professor or two on the loose. But the question I raised isn't whether that harassment was serious: the question is whether the proper response is to stop post-5pm or weekend meetings, both official and unofficial. And that's the part I really don't see.

J W Showalter said...

Anon 5:03, if -- as I'm tentatively assuming -- you really were a member of that department, then you've been closer than I am to the situation. However, other information we now have casts doubt on your claim that "a very prominent program has been outed as a very hostile place for women and feminist philosophers to work."

For instance, Annaleigh Curtis was enrolled in the PhD program there recently. She holds a graduate certificate in Women and Gender Studies and an active researcher on the CU department's committee to investigate climate issues in the department (she even filed a Colorado Open Records Act request, funded and supported by the department). She is also no longer pursuing a career in Philosophy. Given all these facts, it seems that she
a) is highly knowledgeable about the harassment and climate of the department;
b) has no plausible professional interest in concealing the extent of the harassment; and
c) is the sort of person who takes sexual harassment and inappropriately sexualized activity seriously (people who don't take that seriously tend not to go in for certificates in Women and Gender Studies).

And yet, this is what she says about the department in an editorial she wrote on Wednesday: "It was my experience while working to improve the climate in the department that the department itself was keen to change, though its members may have disagreed often about how best to bring about change... Professors — including former Chair Graeme Forbes — and students were concerned about the climate and looking for answers. Again, there was substantial internal disagreement about the right response, and things were not perfect, but the department was making progress. I trust that it will continue to do so."
(http://www.dailycamera.com/guest-opinions/ci_25061754/probing-problems-philosophy-department)

Then we have Mitzi Lee and Bob Pasnau, the chairs of that departmental climate committee. In their post on feministphilosophers, they say this: "from everything that we have been told by our administration, it is a relatively small number of individuals and this certainly coheres with our own experiences and understanding of the matter. We believe that the vast majority of our faculty are decent and highly professional people who care deeply about each other and the welfare of their students, and have not engaged in objectionable behavior of the sort that the report describes."

So, here we have three apparently trustworthy members of the department, whose identities we know, all putting their reputations on the line to tell us that despite the 'small number of individuals' guilty of wrongdoing, the department was mostly made up of decent and engaged philosophers who had nothing to do with the harassment except to try to stop it.

I'm not saying that you're not who you say you are, Anon 5:03, or that you're being dishonest: quite possibly, you were one of the people who bore the brunt of the harassment that took place in the department, and if you were you certainly have my sympathy. Or perhaps the department when you were there was much worse than when these three other witnesses, and more, described it as being good and improving. But the bottom line is that this is the word of one unknown anonymous commenter versus the word of three trustworthy witnesses. I mean no disrespect, but I think we have to go with the known witnesses on this one.

Anonymous said...

1:57,

Tenure isn't the only source of power in academia.

How about this set of rules:

-If you are male, you have to post under your real name.
-If you are straight, you have to post under your real name.
-If you are white, you have to post under your real name.
-If English is your first language, you have to post under your real name.

Anonymous said...

Annaleigh Curtis: "When I saw the release from CU Chancellor Philip DiStefano about the university's concerns about, and actions regarding, sexual harassment in the philosophy department last week, I was not surprised by the allegations."

http://www.dailycamera.com/guest-opinions/ci_25061754/probing-problems-philosophy-department

Lee and Pasnau: "Our Department has been struggling with internal climate issues for several years now... These votes and actions over the last two years show that a large majority of the department are strongly committed to the highest professional and ethical standards, and have also taken steps to improve the culture of the department and its climate. We are determined to make this a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place for men and women alike to work, teach and study."

So if they

1) have been STRUGGLING with climate issues

2) have TAKEN STEPS to improve the culture and climate

3) are determined to MAKE this a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place

Then, this is a department that 1) needs to struggle with its (bad) climate -- one doesn't struggle with a good climate, 2) needs to improve a (substandard) culture and climate -- one doesn't need to improve a culture and climate that is acceptable -- and 3) is not now safe, inclusive, and welcoming -- one doesn't need to make a place safe, inclusive, and welcoming that is already safe, inclusive, and welcoming.

http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/a-post-from-colorado-climate-committee-co-chairs/

Anonymous said...

Right, 7:50, and I think we all agree that making a department safe means making sure there is _no_ harassment, not just that there is _very little_ harassment. And that means that, as long as there has been some harassment (as we know there has -- at least two cases of it), there is work to be done to make sure it never happens to anyone again.

Hence, everything the climate committee's post on feministphilosophers says is consistent with there being, _as the post you're quoting from explicitly states_, no large-scale problem in the department at present.

Any amount of harassment needs to be taken seriously. But not any amount of harassment needs to be dealt with by prohibiting people from meeting outside of class, etc. etc.

metamorphic said...

I don't have time to fully catch up on the conversation, but in the meantime, on 9:18's comment. I think that if you feel like you might get 'lynched', and you are TT or tenured, you should reconsider posting, with the default position of "don't post". I assume you don't mean a literal lynch mob of people trying to kill you. Otherwise, it sounds like complaining that not everyone agrees with you.

Having people say mean things about your comments here, whether they are fairly skewering an inappropriate comment or unfairly skewering something they misread, is not in the same ballpark as potentially not getting a job, or not getting tenure, because of a comment. Not even the same universe.

This rule wouldn't eliminate every power differential there is. Nothing will. That it does not solve every problem doesn't actually speak against it as a rule. This is a jobseekers blog.

I've been reading this blog since its inception, since before I went on the job market. Reading it pre-market, and then when on the market, and then once I had a job, has been a different experience. I understand this, and I post much less often than I used to. No one actually asked me to tell them what to do with themselves. Sometimes the thing to do is listen to people vent, because they are frustrated; they are not thereby asking the rest of us to tell them how to fix their problems.

If you are not willing to have your name associated with your comment, even eventually, then really, the presumption should be to not post it. This is not your space. This is for people in a very frustrating and uncertain position to vent.

I don't comment here often, but from now on I will be using this handle (dibs!). And once I get tenure, I will be very happy to disclose my name to go with the handle. I take everything I post under this to be, sometime in the future, retroactively non-pseudonymous.

Also, btw: this was not meant to imply that Showalter or anyone else is posting as multiple people.

Anonymous said...

6:41 suggests:

"Tenure isn't the only source of power in academia.

How about this set of rules:

-If you are male, you have to post under your real name.
-If you are straight, you have to post under your real name.
-If you are white, you have to post under your real name.
-If English is your first language, you have to post under your real name."

I don't know if you're trying to show the absurdity of the proposed rules, but I am a bit upset about your presumptions about all philosophy departments. Some of us (English-speaking white men) have worked in departments where
1. Being white would make one a minority
2. Speaking English as a native speaker would make one a minority

Do not presume that all philosophy departments on the planet (or for that matter, around the United States or UK) have the same power dynamics.

Anonymous said...

Metamorphic,

One purpose of this blog is to vent, I know. Big purpose. It’s good to have a place for that. But it’s sort of arrogant for you to announce that that’s the sole purpose.

I think that if you feel like you might get 'lynched', and you are TT or tenured, you should reconsider posting, with the default position of "don't post".

Okay, well, thanks for that advice.

Otherwise, it sounds like complaining that not everyone agrees with you.

Oh, come on. That’s just playing dumb. You know very well what the difference is between having someone disagree with you and the (figurative) lynch mob.

Anonymous said...

Re-posting an excellent analysis.

"Coming of age in the '70s, I saw this happen time and time again: rabid Marxists and Maoists became equally rabid fundamentalist Christians, Hare Krishnas, or devotees of the free market. What one comes to realize about such people is that they are addicted to group identification and easy answers. If they can't get their fix with their old drug anymore, they move on to something else.

I'm not saying these people are incapable of independent, highly careful thought. Indeed, one notable one I knew was a fairly ingenious computer programmer who also could speak eloquently on historical topics, on which he was quite learned. But the minute the conversation turned to anything to do with the JW church, his mind would become very narrow and he could only think along the lines of a preestablished script.

Sometimes, of course, the majority of the population gets taken along for the ride (think of the American population under McCarthyism or the Jewish American population's relation to Zionism).

The signs that something has gone off in this way include the following:

1) The magnification of a particular evil in people's minds far beyond its actual proportions, and a subsequent obsession with that evil (in popular culture, think of the rhetoric surrounding the war on drugs in the 1980s, or terrorists in the 2000s, or in Zionist literature, think of Islamic anti-Semitism). Certainly, all these things are genuine evils and should be dealt with. But thinking of them in an obsessed manner that drives group identity (of which more in a moment) tends to be unhelpful and also obscures the importance of other issues. . . . That brings me to a second indicator:

2) The felt need to add one's voice to a discussion not because one has anything new or interesting to say, but rather because one cannot resist the urge to see oneself (and be seen by the group) as saying and doing the right things in response to the sinister forces. . . .

3) Once enough people join the bandwagon and get into the habit of mouthing heartfelt but uninformative platitudes whose primary role is to conversationally separate those who are on 'our side' from those who promote or enable the great evil, a concern naturally arises over degrees of orthodoxy. There are always matters of judgment: does _this_ count as part of the evil? . . .

4) The more extreme the members of these groups become -- and they always tend to, for the reasons I've just explained -- the greater the difficulty they have relating to those on the outside. The outsiders can't see why any reasonable person would take things to such extremes, and the insiders feel moral disgust at the outsiders' lack of concern. So they become more self-contained. After enough time, insiders will refuse to engage _thoughtfully and openly_ with anyone who rejects the tenets of their belief system (e.g. the person who openly admits not being willing to "[read] my comments carefully and [think] about them" simply because I've mocked the true believers' self-righteousness.
"

Anonymous said...

2:39,

I was not assuming anything about individual department power dynamics. I was simply trying to suggest that power dynamics are more complicated than simply tenure/non-tenure. When one assumes that tenure = empowered, one willfully ignores the complexities of power dynamics.

I also think it's absurd to think that only certain classes of individuals should be allowed the protection of anonymity.

Anonymous said...

I frankly wonder if a non-trivial part of metamorphic's interest in this ridiculous debate about names is to brag about having a TT position.

Anonymous said...

I don't get why Showalter thinks that there was no problematic climate at Boulder, when everyone associated with the department there Boulder says that there was. It sounds like there was at most one or two bad actors, but it also sounds like that one or two people poisoned the environment for the rest of the department.

Anonymous said...

NotShowalter,

This is 8:26/9:30/9:43/11:08, etc. I didn't ignore your point by point response. I have a job, and was teaching classes and in meetings all day yesterday. I posted with the intention of honestly telling people like yourself why some bloggers get frustrated with your camp. I was being self-reflective and honest, and I have only been attacked as a result.

The main reason I didn't respond, and have not changed my view, is that your responses are horribly inadequate.

1) Your first 'response' was that there were good arguments on Showalter's blog. Please point these out to me. What exactly were the shortcomings that are so important? Regardless, it seems like your main claim is that the report, as written, should not have been used for this purpose. But, as I pointed out yesterday, the report was not intended to be made public, and was not written with that purpose in mind. It was the admin's decision to go public with it. Maybe that wasn't a good idea, as it may lead to damaging the public's perception of philosophy or some other thing that Showalter said (although I find these claims very speculative, and can't help but think that the public's understanding of philosophy as a discipline can't get much worse than it already is). But nonetheless, this is no reason to criticize the committee, the APA, or the committee members.

2) You agreed me with on this point, so it doesn't require a response.

3) This response is inadequate. You would very much like it if you were able to go out into natural environments with your colleagues? Good for you. It's too bad that preventing sexual harassment is far more important than your preferences. Go on a hike, invite a friend, do whatever you want - just don't make it a departmental event. This requirement does little more than inconvenience some members of the department. And that is not a serious complaint, nor does it warrant the charge of injustice. Many departments (including several I have been part of) already internalize these rules.

Now, am I just being completely irrational? Am I actually just the slave to my passions and political motivations? I don't think so. I think I am sensitive to the seriousness of climate issues in this profession, as I have witnessed many women and other minorities in philosophy withstand awful attitudes, sexist remarks, and all kinds of explicit and implicit bias. I think that inconveniencing a few people and tarnishing some reputations is worth it when trying to eliminate "Teh Patriarchy" as you so arrogantly put it from our discipline.

Now, when I see people disagree with this, I feel very inclined towards thinking that the only reason they wouldn't see things this way is if they were too self-absorbed to comprehend how serious the problems with the climate for women are in our discipline. And such people, whether they mean to or not, are perpetuating harmful, sexist ideologies. Maybe I'm simply blind to rationality and incapable of seeing the light. But I am trying. I am thinking about your arguments, I am analyzing them, and I still think they're shit. Maybe that's because I'm an irrational idiot, maybe it's because you're horribly wrong, or maybe it's because you're very bad at expressing yourself.

So get over yourself. No one is refusing to listen to you. I'm listening, I'm thinking, and I think you're full of it. Don't act like you're the only voice of reason in this debate or the paragon of rationality. You're not a victim. You're just not very good at making a persuasive case to someone who disagrees with you.

Anonymous said...

"The magnification of a particular evil in people's minds far beyond its actual proportions, and a subsequent obsession with that evil (in popular culture, think of the rhetoric surrounding the war on drugs in the 1980s, or terrorists in the 2000s, or in Zionist literature, think of Islamic anti-Semitism)."

Is this meant to be a comparison to the concerns about the climate for women? Because the attitudes surrounding these issues are fueled by misinformation, lies, and exaggeration. Are you suggesting that the same is true for the concerns expressed in the report?

...because I'm not at all sure that that is an apt comparison.

Also, the war on drugs, terror, etc. have caused serious injustices that have literally ruined lives and promoted racist ideologies and policies. Repairing climate issues requires, at worst, inconveniencing some people and causing some PR issues.

So...this is a really shitty analogy, and it makes you look like, well, kind of a sexist asshole.

NotShowalter said...

Hi 12:25/8:26. Thank you for responding. To be clear, my problem with your responses was that you were willing to continue pushing the "there are no good arguments line" without even so much as engaging with those who have put arguments forward. That's not a matter of your being busy--it's one of not being fair to the conversation while continuing to want to take part in it. And please drop the histrionics about being 'attacked', or supposing I think of myself as a 'victim'. Most of us don't view these interactions through the persecution-complex that you seem to be sporting.

As to your responses: you have said that you 'don't have time' to respond to Showalter's blog, but I invite you to take the time if you think it's important to keep asserting that there are no good arguments to discuss. As for the arguments I've given, first I've argued that we should be wary of supporting an APA-sanctioned committee's ability to justify an administration's takeover of a department. You continue to tell us that the report wasn't meant to be public, as if that's to excuse the way it was used, but one of the first things that came out from Feminist Philosophers was that the committee members expect all parties to be aware of the institutional rules on how such reports are used. This being so, it is simply no defense of how poorly composed that report is, given the way it was used by the administration and the (putative) expectation that all involved be aware of what might happen, that it wasn't meant for public consumption. The idea that there is "no reason to criticize the committee, the APA, or the committee members" is flatly false. There is plenty of reason.

As to your third point, you seem to think the issue is one of my and others' 'preferences' versus 'preventing sexual harassment'. But that's to ignore a whole range of positions in between, and to fail to appreciate what the objection is in this case. As was evident in your initial response to the poster who raised the complaint you were responding to, you're more interested in 'hyperbolic tone' than in considering what was said. As I said above, to ban retreats at Boulder will change the culture there, and we can all agree (I hope) that there is a preponderance of evidence that shows the culture ought to be changed. But it seems a bit quick to say, as you do, that in making these changes "no one will have the opportunity to sexually exploit vulnerable groups." Sure, that's what these changes are *aimed at*, but there's a debate to be had about whether, in fact, this is a good way to realize those aims (again, I direct you to Showalter's blog).

Finally, I think it's worth continuing to point out how thoroughly your view is colored by your political commitments and your speculations about the motivations and 'self-absorption' of your interlocutors. You confess that this is the position from which you are responding, you admit that these habits of thinking are not justified inferences, and yet you continue to self-righteously declare that the arguments you're faced with are 'shit'.

Sure, you pepper in the occasional "maybe I'm an irrational idiot", but you continue to speak from a position of sentimental association rather than rational response. I'm not driven by an attitude of "fuck those feminists", as you confidently propose at 9:43. In the very next sentence of that post you admit that the associations that lead you to this view are not justified--it's a habit of your thinking, and it's a bad habit. So get over it.

Anonymous said...

Every time something like this happens, the old boys' network gets all butt-hurt and whines about being persecuted, just like fundamentalist Christians do when people call them out on their BS (Duck Dynasty, anyone?). The only difference is that they articulate their whining in big words to make it seem like they're just "doing philosophy." It's so predictable.

Anonymous said...

NotShowalter,
You seem very intent on ignoring the distinction between two different claims I’m making. 1) I have yet to see a persuasive argument that the report deserves heavy criticism. 2) People who see bad arguments against the report tend to make specific judgments about the political motivations of those people who support those arguments. Now, you keep on insisting that the reason I believe (1) is because I dismiss people putting forward the objections for reasons like those discussed in (2). I don’t think this is true. I take my first three criticisms in my original post to demonstrate the problems with all of Showalter’s 7 complaints, and I don’t think any of those judgments are politically motivated. But, if you absolutely insist that I respond to every single bullet point, then here:
Complaint 1: “blatant dictatorship” is an example of ridiculous hyperbole. The department has gone into receivership, and we can discuss whether or not this is good. My own view is that there seems to be no good reason to prioritize department autonomy over prevention of sexual harassment and an inhospitable climate for women.
Complaint 2: Exaggerates the actual harms to the departments.
Complaint 3: Same as #2. I have imagined departmental life under those rules, and it seems like, at worst, an inconvenience.
Complaint 4: This is a wilful misrepresentation of the report. It says that everyone must be respectful of all perspectives (it even mentions nonfeminist philosophy). The report was clearly saying that anyone who is consistently hostile to a philosophical school should be sure to do some work to familiarize him or herself with that school. What the fuck is wrong with that?
Complaint 5: They asked that question because THAT is the standard that all schools should be held to. Everyone should be absolutely confident of complete fairness in evaluation of these cases. If a significant portion of the populations isn’t, that’s a problem.
Complaint 6: I highly doubt that, in the long run, any grad students will be significantly harmed by this debacle. But yes, sometimes in order to correct for serious issues involving, for example, climate for women, some reputations will be tarnished. It is unfortunate. I don’t see how this could be avoided, given the realities of the culture at CU.
Complaint 7: ‘Family Friendly’ is used to denote environments that are nonsexual, safe, and professional. Critiquing that choice of language amounts to stupid nitpicking.
Now, do any of my responses amount to irrational political rantings? I don’t think so. I’ve been forthcoming about my political commitments, my reasons for believing what I do, and all you do is keep challenging me with barely coherent responses, promises that there are ‘good arguments’ out there, and accusations of irrationality. If you want to engage in a dialogue, then tell me, what have I missed?

NotShowalter said...

Hi 8:26. Thank you for continuing the conversation. It seems we're getting a bit heated, and I apologize for my part in contributing to that. I will try to do my best to bring things back around to more constructive territory--please forgive me if I continue to fail to meet that standard.

First, I concede that I was not sufficiently marking the difference between your claims (1) and (2). And while I appreciate that you don't think that the reason you hold (1) is because of (2), the fact is you have repeatedly admitted that your view in (2) is driven by sentiment rather than justified inference. Let me only urge you to be a bit more careful in letting that kind of thinking determine how you categorize your interlocutor.

As I said above, I think the "interested in preventing sexual harassment" versus "fuck those feminists" division is misguided, and I've suggested an alternative: there are in many political debates revolutionary and reactionary forces. I think we can see them at work here. But we should not suppose that just because someone is a reactionary about, e.g., supporting APA-sanctioned committees whose reports are used by university administrations in the way this report was, that such a person is *also* a reactionary about, e.g., encouraging APA-sanctioned committees to assess general issues of 'climate' at individual departments and compose reports on that basis.

As to your responses to Showalter--I invite you to take this up at his blog:

http://laughingphilosopherblog.wordpress.com/

I think you'll find him a willing participant in conversation.

Concerning the conversation you're having with me, how about addressing the concern I've raised--namely, about unconditionally supporting an APA-sanctioned committee whose reports are used as justification for the administrative reorganization of a philosophy department. As I said above, the fact that the report was not meant for public display is part of the problem, so it can't be pointed to as an excuse for why the report is unfit for the way it was used. And LGBTPhilosopher's point (1) at Feb. 6 1:16 pm goes some way toward specifying why that report is problematic. You've recently said that there is "no reason to criticize the committee, the APA, or the committee members", but the committee, its members, and the role of the APA are hardly above criticism here. And those who offer such points of criticism ought not be treated to the sentimental associations of a political view that polarizes the debate into "us" versus "them".

Anonymous said...

Every time something like this happens, the old boys' network gets all butt-hurt and whines about being persecuted,

Ah, right. It's not feminists who are complaining about being persecuted. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Anonymous said...

"that too is pretty fucking bad and makes for a chilly climate. Again, notice the attempt to draw some line demarcating bad and worse behavior instead of just saying: "Hey. We might not want to do this.""

Yes indeed. So serious that it demands we delay the lives of grad students for an additional year, because grad school isn't long enough, clearly.

J W Showalter said...

Showalter here. I'm not really sure why anyone thinks my position is that "there was nothing wrong with the Colorado department", since I've repeatedly discussed the problems and the importance of making sure the harassment stops.

The question in my mind is simply whether the report is a reasonable reaction to those problems.

As for 2:47's bullet points:

"Complaint 1: “blatant dictatorship” is an example of ridiculous hyperbole."
- since you go on to agree that the department has lost its autonomy after going 'into receivership', the ridiculousness is lost on me. You seem to approve of the loss of autonomy: fine. But that doesn't mean it isn't one.

"Complaint 2: Exaggerates the actual harms to the departments.
Complaint 3: Same as #2. I have imagined departmental life under those rules, and it seems like, at worst, an inconvenience."
- as I'll argue in a post shortly, this is far from clear and the evidence seems to be against it.

"Complaint 4: This is a wilful misrepresentation of the report. It says that everyone must be respectful of all perspectives (it even mentions nonfeminist philosophy). The report was clearly saying that anyone who is consistently hostile to a philosophical school should be sure to do some work to familiarize him or herself with that school. What the fuck is wrong with that?"
-There's no willful misrepresentation of the report here. It specifically mentions feminist philosophy. You may feel that any good department or member thereof ought to embrace methodological pluralism (but see the recent post on _Philosophers Anonymous_ about this); and perhaps you're right (though I doubt it). But that's not the issue. The job of the site visit team was to make recommendations for combating sexual harassment and sexualized behavior. It hardly seems to be an appropriate use of that role for the three team members to advocate that their commonly preferred school of philosophy, or any others, not be open to criticism by department members.

"Complaint 5: They asked that question because THAT is the standard that all schools should be held to. Everyone should be absolutely confident of complete fairness in evaluation of these cases. If a significant portion of the populations isn’t, that’s a problem."
You've missed the point, I'm afraid. I agree that that is the right standard to aim for; but the question is obviously biased in ways that should be obvious to anyone with a passing familiarity with survey methodology.

"Complaint 6: I highly doubt that, in the long run, any grad students will be significantly harmed by this debacle. But yes, sometimes in order to correct for serious issues involving, for example, climate for women, some reputations will be tarnished. It is unfortunate. I don’t see how this could be avoided, given the realities of the culture at CU."
- Very little about those realities is uncontroversial, and even in the worst case scenario they could have been dealt with without the harm to the school's reputation through the publicizing of the report, etc. Why do you think this was inevitable? You don't make it clear.

"Complaint 7: ‘Family Friendly’ is used to denote environments that are nonsexual, safe, and professional. Critiquing that choice of language amounts to stupid nitpicking."
- I think it's clear that I wasn't nit-picking the choice of language: I was critiquing the suggestion, whatever language was used.

Anonymous said...

"Showalter here. I'm not really sure why anyone thinks my position is that "there was nothing wrong with the Colorado department" [sic]..."

I don't know that anyone thinks that. Nobody said it, anyways, although it's in quotation marks as though someone did. I said that I didn't get why you don't think that there was a problem with the climate at Boulder, but that's because of your repeated insistence that one or two bad actors doesn't add up to a problematic climate.

"The question in my mind is simply whether the report is a reasonable reaction to those problems."

But since you admit that you don't have any direct knowledge of the situation at Boulder, and your reading of the report is often wrong. (e.g, you falsely write that "The report claims that no philosophy department should, under any circumstances, ask its members to attend events outside of the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday." It does not say this. The page you cite says, "While we are very supportive of the idea of departmental retreats, in the light of this department’s history, all events, including retreats, need to be held during business hours (9-5) and on campus or near campus in public venues.")

So, because you don't understand what the report says, what its purpose was, what situation it was designed to remedy, or what your critics' criticisms are, it seems to me that your opinions on this matter are completely worthless, and I wish you'd put a fucking sock in it already.

J W Showalter said...

No problem at Boulder? No problem with the climate at Boulder? No, again, I've said neither of those things. You're making it up rather than reading what I said.

You say I present no evidence for the committee's having said that no department should have events outside of office hours, just because you can't find the relevant passage. But you don't need to search and find it: I did that for you and presented it. You just need to read the excerpt that I quoted and then check it for yourself, and you'll see that the committee talks about 'best practices' for philosophy departments entailing that visiting speakers should be treated to lunch rather than dinner so that department members can go home after 5, and that no department should ever try to 'organize the social calendars' of its members (i.e. by having things outside of 9-5).

Anyway, enough. If you aren't inclined to look at the evidence now, you won't be if I and others repeat ourselves ten more times. This doesn't seem to be getting us anywhere.

NotShowalter said...

8:26...4:30 writes:

"[Showalter] falsely writes that "The report claims that no philosophy department should, under any circumstances, ask its members to attend events outside of the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday." It does not say this."

Le sigh. See page 12 of the report:

"Under no circumstances should this department (or any other) be organizing the social calendars of its members."

Notice the parenthetical remark.

But based on this one flimsy criticism, the fact that Showalter does not have inside information on CU Boulder, and a complaint about the use of quotation marks concerning whether "climate" should be inserted (it was clearly at issue regardless), 8:26/etc. (why not pick a pseudonym?) goes on to conclude:

"So, because you don't understand what the report says, what its purpose was, what situation it was designed to remedy, or what your critics' criticisms are, it seems to me that your opinions on this matter are completely worthless, and I wish you'd put a fucking sock in it already."

Please try to understand 8:26, transitions of thinking like this are evidence that politically motivated sentimental association is obstructing your ability to think clearly and engage charitably with your interlocutors. Do you appreciate how weak the lines of justification are that move you from that single objection (which, as it happens, misfires) to the conclusion that Showalter's perspective is "completely worthless," finishing off your thought with a cursing request that he stop talking? Meanwhile, you have completely ignored his point-by-point responses to your (it now seems very weak) contention that he's got nothing to say.

Above you granted that your impression of your interlocutors was motivated by sentimental association rather than 'justified inference'. Recently you have claimed that this feature of your psychology is distinct from your assessments of the arguments you are addressing. But it's becoming pretty clear that these two aspects of your character are not wholly unconnected.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:26: This is Anon 5:50. I have absolutely no idea how to find out what departments don't have great climates for women (and, honestly, how could a department that doesn't have a great climate for women, really have a great climate for men?). My information is just from talking with good friends in these departments. Since I lack firsthand knowledge, I'm reluctant to share.

It just occurred to me that the departments I've heard negative reports about have also tended to be departments where there is A LOT of faculty/grad student boozy socializing (going out at least once a week). So that may be a sign to watch for. I'm NOT implying that all departments that have a lot of socializing have problems. I'm only noting a trend that my completely anecdotal evidence suggests.

Anonymous said...

"You say I present no evidence for the committee's having said that no department should have events outside of office hours, just because you can't find the relevant passage."

Not exactly. You cited a source (p.12), which I read. When I read it, I discovered that it didn't say what you said it says.

"But you don't need to search and find it: I did that for you and presented it."

You quote from the report as follows: “If there are going to be social events, then they need to be managed such that members of the department can opt out easily and without any penalty. (Please note that best practices for family-friendly speaker events include taking the speaker out to lunch instead of dinner so that participants may have their evenings free to attend to other obligations)”

That falls somewhat short of saying that no department should ever under any circumstances schedule any event outside normal business hours. It does recommend against scheduling events outside those hours, obviously. But it gives a good reason: people have lives and obligations after work. Your interpretation is hyperbolic.

"Le sigh. See page 12 of the report: "Under no circumstances should this department (or any other) be organizing the social calendars of its members.""

Yeah, as I have said, I saw that. I don't interpret it the way Showalter does because two sentences before that, they go out of their way to say they support departmental retreats, generally speaking, and that this department's history is why this department in particular shouldn't schedule events outside normal business hours. And anyways, why should my employer be permitted to organize my social calendar?

"But based on this one flimsy criticism, the fact that Showalter does not have inside information on CU Boulder..."

If he doesn't know what situation the report is designed to remedy, how can he know whether the proposed remedies are excessive? (He can't.)

"Please try to understand 8:26, transitions of thinking like this are evidence that politically motivated sentimental association is obstructing your ability to think clearly and engage charitably with your interlocutors."

Are you the "coming of age in the 70s" guy? If you think that everyone who disagrees with you about this topic is too blinded by ideology to think rationally about it, it's no wonder you're having trouble finding interlocutors you think are acceptable.

"Above you granted that your impression of your interlocutors was motivated by sentimental association rather than 'justified inference'."

You got me confused with somebody else. Just because there's only one of you doesn't mean there's not more than one of us.

Anonymous said...

I wish you'd put a fucking sock in it already.

Amen.

Anonymous said...

Indeed. The philosophical blogosphere would be much improved if, rather than speculating on the ways of sock puppets, the blowhards would put their socks in their hot air vents.

I trust it's not lost on anyone that the accusation of 'pseudophilosophical what ifs' that was originally meant to be used against the alleged sexism enablers is actually better than what's going on here. For all its defects, pseudophilosophical speculation goes somewhere. This is just repetition. It's time for it to end.

If you really feel strongly about the social cause you think you're supporting by doing this, your time will be better spent staying off the blog and volunteering at a women's crisis line.

Anonymous said...

In related news:

http://www.colinmcginn.net/due-process/#.UvfRF0JdUqo

NotShowalter said...

Hi 5:56. I'm sorry I confused you with 8:26. If you choose to continue the conversation, would you mind taking Metamorphic's suggestion by picking a moniker and using it consistently? It will help us keep up with who's said what, so that we know what kind of views are in play.

I think there are two things worth responding to in your comment--one of substance, one by way of encouraging you to think a bit differently about the conversation going on here.

I'll start with the latter issue, as it addresses some of what other commenters have said as well. As I am certain all people of good faith will agree, the fact that there are concrete steps moving those in the profession to question and reorient their perspectives on gender relations is to be commended and encouraged. More importantly, I think we can take for granted that the situation at Boulder will be improved, and for that reason as well we ought to count the APA committee's report as a good thing.

This being so, the fact that some people question some of the particulars of the report, and do so in a way that raise doubts about the value of repeating it in every specific detail, IN NO WAY shows that those who question the committee, the APA, the report, or the way the report was used by the administration are at odds with or otherwise want to impede the successfulness of projects such as the committee's.

And so far as I can see, there has been *no argument whatsoever* that has as its conclusion that people like Showalter and myself are comparable, as 9:19 supposes, to "sexism enablers". Instead, there's a bunch of cheerleading, wild accusation, and uncharitable reconstruction of the views of these would-be "sexism enablers". So unless and until one of you can produce an argument showing how this conversation enables sexism, I will conclude that your view here is driven by sentimental association and a busted understanding of your fellows. This will lead me to, on occasion, point out the ways in which such a misguided understanding of your interlocutor intrudes on and corrupts the exercise of your capacities to converse with and live cordially with those around you.

Continued below

NotShowalter said...

On that front, 5:56's comment is striking (I will use female pronouns for you, unless you'd like me to do otherwise). While you grant that Showalter's claim was supposed to be justified by the passage I quoted above, your initial comment characterized his view without mentioning this fact, instead pointing to a different passage in the report as that which, you imply, he was relying on in his reconstruction. But this single clumsy characterization of Showalter's view, together with a bullshit quibble about quotation marks and the fact that Showalter doesn't have direct knowledge of Boulder, leads you to the following thought:

"So, because you don't understand what the report says, what its purpose was, what situation it was designed to remedy, or what your critics' criticisms are, it seems to me that your opinions on this matter are completely worthless, and I wish you'd put a fucking sock in it already."

This kind of thinking is ridiculous. Your penchant for social crusading is making you look like a colossal ass.

Thankfully, we can leave all this to the side. For the issue here ought to be the specific one about departmental socialization, and the more general one about the way the report was composed given how it was used. If we're going to have a conversation, let's have it about that. Clearly this is the root of our problem, not bullshit concerns with how to read the report.

Personally, I'm of the mind that there is nothing onerous about or deleterious of lively intellectual climate to have functions restricted to a typical workweek. I have questions about the force and scope of some of the generalizations the report makes (e.g., talking about 'best practices,' and making parenthetical references to every department), but I'm not worried about a spread of Feminist Fascism or anything. The report was composed for CU Boulder, we can be pretty sure that the people who composed the report are familiar enough with the situation that these are sensible suggestions, and confident that they will lead to a better atmosphere.

But here's the thing 4:30/5:56: if we're to make progress on this front there needs to be a degree of humble and forthright discussion that, so far, is lacking on your end. And this goes to everyone listening who might like to chime in--cut the shit about all the persecution the conversation is causing you, and start taking part in the conversation.

http://laughingphilosopherblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/the-colorado-report-beyond-the-cheerleading/

Anonymous said...

Is anon #919 doing the old "I'm rubber and you're glue" routine? That'll show 'em.

Anonymous said...

Notshowalter,

This is actually 8:26. I didn’t take a moniker because I have no interest in carrying on this conversation any further. Yes, we can talk rationally and calmly about what is or is not appropriate socialization in departments (specifically, the topic is about such socialization in departments with a history of climate issues, so let’s also keep that in mind). But, as it stands, no one in your camp has offered an argument that gives us any reason to think that the recommendations made by the report should be rejected. So, rather than begging us to listen to you, GIVE US A FUCKING DECENT ARGUMENT. WE HAVE BEEN LISTENING. Of course, you’re not going to give us one. You’ll just keep linking to Showalter’s blog (because obviously you’re not Showalter).

I’m done talking to you. I will not respond any further. I have made this decision because it has become obvious that you and your buddy Showalter will never ever give up or change your view. You have given nothing but promissory notes, incomplete arguments, and barely coherent objections to the whole process. I’ve actually taken the time to show you why those arguments are bad. Your responses amount to the following:

1) You get mad that people like me are inclined to think that people who support these arguments are sexists, because it amounts to us concluding that your judgment is driven by sentimental association (you regularly accused me of this above).
2) You conclude that the judgment of everyone who disagrees with you is driven by sentimental association.
3)
What the serious fuck? Are you just trolling? You’re basically saying “It’s super irrational for you to call me irrational on the basis of evidence X, Y, and Z. But I can use evidence X, Y, and Z to conclude that you are irrational.” If you don’t see the hypocritical absurdity in the things you’ve said, you have to go sit by a lake, look in the reflection, and have a good hard think about your life.

I’m going to say this one more time: No one is victimizing you. No one is refusing to listen to you. You are either extremely wrong, or you are very bad at making yourself clear. THAT is why you have failed to convince everyone, not because we’re all making absurd sentimental associations.

Get over yourself. Go outside. Take the advice of one the commentators above and do some good in the world. That’s what I’m going to do.

Peace and love.

Anonymous said...

So, as of a couple days ago there's a new blog called "Laughing Philosopher" run by a "J W Showalter" who also comments on philosophy-related blog posts, including ones on this site, especially recently. Comments with this name go back to at least 2011, but seem focused on non-philosophical issues, particularly SPEP and women in philosophy. The blog is also focused mostly on those issues. And right as it appeared, it got a plug from Leiter.

So ... who the hell is this person? Is it a pseudonym (which would be pretty precious given past complaints about aliases (see http://app3.insidehighered.com/news/2011/08/19/furor_over_guide_to_graduate_programs_in_philosophy )? If it isn't, and the person works in the field, why does there seem to be about zero web presence beyond comments (the person claims to be an insider of some kind http://laughingphilosopherblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/all-dissent-or-critical-analysis-will-be-taken-as-evidence-of-insincerity/ )? Is this identity a proxy for someone more prominent?

NotShowalter said...

I'm sorry 8:26, but you seem to be misunderstanding what we're talking about. I don't want to speak for Showalter or anyone else in his 'camp', but at least in my case, I'm calling for a conversation about these issues. And on that front the failing has been your own, and monumentally so. You speak of your conviction that I and my buddy Showalter will never change our view, but you've done next to nothing to tell us what it is about our view that's wrong. When finally pressed, you did respond to a bullet-pointing of Showalter's view. But when Showalter responded to your 7 points above, you ignored it. And from what I can tell you have not addressed *any* of the particular issues that I have raised *all over* this thread (please point me to exceptions if I've missed them). Instead, we're presented with ill-conceived reconstructions and hand-wringing.

Though you claim to have 'taken the time' to show that Showalter and my arguments are bad, the fact that you're thinking in these terms only shows how poorly you understand what you're talking about. I'm sorry to be so rude, but you are frankly unhinged here. I'm not mad at you, I don't think of myself as having been victimized or persecuted, and I don't think there's anything in-principle wrong about making a judgment without have a justification for it, thinking of the transition as something other than an inference (Christ, what do you think aesthetic experience involves?). I'm only trying to point out some of the ways in which your particular sentiment-aroused judgments (and those of some around you) are evidence that you have a horrible conception of your interlocutors and the of the project you are collectively engaged in here.

And the fact that you're now begging out of the conversation under the pretense think I imagine myself to have been victimized makes you look silly. There's no victimization here. There's only a conversation going wasted.

Anonymous said...

12:17:

It's an interesting question, but wouldn't trying to answer it be an attempt to out someone who may be using a handle here and elsewhere?

A couple of weeks ago, some people tried to speculate about the identity of FeministPhilosopher. The Smoker moderators shut that discussion down. I applaud that move.

Shouldn't the same apply here, and elsewhere? Many, including the Smoker moderators, blog pseudonymously and it seems wrong to try to out them.

Anonymous said...

My concern is that the APA committee will soon notice a sharp decline in invitations.

Thoughts?

Anon 12:17 said...

Well, I used the word "who" but I'm more concerned about what the hell this person is. The blog is as if it is written by a professor of philosophy. Is the author claiming that? If it's a pseudonym, why is the blog "signed" with that name? Given the self-presentation, I had assumed the person was making a claim to be a professor of philosophy somewhere. I'm not asking for an unmasking, but I don't think it's crazy to expect to know whether he or she is using a pseudonym.

Anonymous said...

1:49,
Yes. Well, I don't think they had a whole lot of invitations before this, so probably not a steep decline; but I expect it's cost some invitations. A department would have to be in some pretty serious trouble before it would risk the downside of a site visit now.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate that the moderators are allowing comments that they must sharply disagree with. I came across a satirical post-site visit compliance report that will likely irk many here:
http://philosatire.tumblr.com/post/76354880971/cufa

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard anything from the Tulane post-doc?

Anonymous said...

3:54,

You didn't merely come across that site. You *made* that site. Nobody is fooled. Just be honest.

Anonymous said...

I'm 3:54. I didn't make that tumblr site.

Anonymous said...

What's that about?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard anything from the Tulane post-doc?

February 12, 2014 at 7:03 AM

Anonymous said...

Well, whoever made that site (and it isn't me, either), it's fucking hilarious: http://philosatire.tumblr.com

Thanks for the laugh! Ingenious.

Anonymous said...

So, "Jane Brownstein," whose lengthy criticism of the Colorado Site Visit report was the basis for Leiter's post about it yesterday, turned out to be a pseudonym (Leiter says he was misled about this). I think it has been established that "J. W. Showalter," the other main critic of the Colorado report, is also a pseudonym. Has Leiter been able to confirm this? Has he (or anybody else, for that matter) been able to confirm that "Showalter" and "Brownstein" are pseudonyms for different people? Because I suspect not. I would be very surprised if "Brownstein" and "Showalter" are not the same person, given general similarities in content and tone, "Brownstein's" apparent dishonesty, and "Showalter's" obvious inclination for sockpuppetry.

Also, the argument "Brownstein" advances in Leiter's comment thread seemed familiar. After a little googling, I found that someone writing as "PJK" advanced a nearly identical line of argument in comments in a Smoker thread a while back. It is probably not worth mentioning that someone writing as "JPK" is now defending "Brownstein's" views from criticisms in the Leiter thread.

Anonymous said...

And JPK uses the same "coherence theory of truth" analogy that PJK uses on the old Smoker's thread.

In my view, this person is a troll and should be unmasked. I usually think that unmasking people is wrong, but this person has clearly taken it upon themselves to spread doubt by not arguing in good faith about issues that are important to the future of the philosophical community. Quite frankly I'm horrified that arguments as incredibly shitty and insulting as the one's given on Leiter's blog are being seriously debated (I included LogicFan's arguments in this category of shitty arguments as well). It makes philosophy look really bad about a really important subject. And given the recent new about Ludlow... well, fuck that.

I'm glad that the people appending what I assume are their real names (mainly because I recognize them), are defending the CSW report.

Anonymous said...

Well said 1:45. LogicFan and his compatriots are fools, and an embarrassment to the profession.

Sometimes the only appropriate response to a position is to tell the person advocating it to fuck off. To engage that person in debate only dignifies their position.

NotShowalter said...

I am not identical with any of the bogeymen that 1:45 is worried about. And I think you'll find that there is no shortage of well-intentioned people who view the sort of ideological bullying and intellectual dogmatism rampant in feminist discourse to be part of the gender problem that feminist notions like 'rape culture' conveniently elide. Ask around; you might be surprised to find that there are more of us than you expect. Feminism is not the panacea you suppose it to be.

And it is posts like 4:02's and above that show just how insidious is the feminist proclivity to deflect criticism with a victim narrative. If we don't toe the feminist line in this conversation, and if we dare to raise a criticism of feminism at this time, then we merit no more consideration than to be told 'fuck off'.

Yet look at the conversation this latest ejaculation sullies. There are over a hundred posts in this thread, and with the exception of a few bright moments of dialogue it's been filled with obfuscation, distraction, and a refusal to respond to the objections (I invite you to glance at a few exchanges above and try to read them with unbiased eyes). Finally, Jaded and 8:26/etc. backed away, the latter under pretense of victimization, the former with a retreat to posting nonsense whinge-fits where the comments are closed.

Despite this schoolyard behavior, less than a week later we're confronted by another feminist contingent complaining about and morally condemning people who question the role of feminist ideology in the activities of this committee.

Meanwhile, for those of us who are familiar with the way the conversation at Leiter is shaping up, the mischaracterization spread by the nincompoops above looks outrageous. A feminist's dismissal of another's argument in this context is worthless--you have no standing whatsoever, no ground on which to be taken seriously here. You'll have to do more than whine if you want those who are disputing your view to be convinced that you're correct in all the details.

And yet these people think they're just fighting the Good Fight for wymynz and justice. The rest of us are expected to go along unquestioningly, and if we question feminism, well...

For a group of people that ought to be as sensitive to implicit bias as any of us, the feminists are making a poor showing here. The conversation at Leiter doesn't seem to me to be that much better. There's a lot of backpeddling and blame-shifting, but the shortcomings of the committee, from what I can tell, just haven't been addressed by anyone involved. And the fact that feminists are actively suppressing that criticism by morally condemning anyone engaging in it is just more evidence of the sickness in contemporary feminism.

Anonymous said...

NotShowalter's final paragraph at 6:06 is strong evidence of his/her troll status.

DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS

Anonymous said...

12:48, you conspiracy nut,

Have you ever considered the possibility that these are basic arguments that more than one person can think of in the situation? This isn't rocket science here, man. These are basic flaws with the positions under attack. Many people are having similar thoughts.

And JPK and PJK both use the coherence theory of truth as an analogy for something? Well, geez, maybe they're the same person, and maybe one of them read it in the other one.

Or do you think that nobody ever picks up an analogy from anyone else?

Or do you not think about this at all, just because you feel really, really sure that the world will be made right once you've unmasked all the enemies of the Colorado report as the same person and shown that that person is a 'troll', your work will be done?

Because we all know that, unlike the army of trolls you envisage, no two feminists have ever had the same idea, or used the same analogy.

Right?

Can you still hear us, or is your crusading helmet on too tight?

Give it up, man.

Anonymous said...

Smokers, please. Can we be charitable?

Some shitty things are going down with McGinn, Colorado, and (maybe) Ludlow. It's upsetting for many of us.

But can we take a breather on this epic Hunting of the Trolls?

Brownstein, Showalter, Notshowalter, Logicfan, etc. seem like serious people to me. Do I agree with everything they say? Absolutely not. But how does that mean they're trolls? Where's the evidence that they're just here to get off on riling people up? I'm not seeing it.

NotShowalter said...

6:32 quite nicely exhibits the sorts of idiocies that I and others are pointing out about feminism. In this case an accusatory dismissiveness that would, if successful, push out of the conversation the very voices that need heard. All under the pretense of 'justice' and by people without 'privilege'. It is quite striking to see it so boldly at work at this point in the exchange, but there you have it.

Anonymous said...

1:45 here. I agree with not feeding the trolls. I guess this comment is intended for the non-trolls.

Both here and at Leiter's I've been most horrified by the trolls usage of the following rhetorical technique: take a highly disadvantaged group, e.g., women in philosophy, that has recently had revealed great hardships, e.g., (possible) attempted rape and sexual harassment, and tried to stick up for themselves, e.g., CSW, suing Northwester, and attribute to the group _immense_ power. The trolls constantly refer to an "army of feminists" with "crusading helmets" as if the _feminists_ have lots of power. But of course this is merely a shitty rhetorical technique because women only make up twenty-something percent of philosophers, are evidently at constant risk of sexual harassment and implicit bias, and consequently _lack_ power. But of course, this is just a rhetorical move, and I hope that non-trolls can see it as such.

Also, in my view, only trolls, i.e., people who do not engage seriously with the issues, claim that attempting to improve the clearly retched environment in philosophy is a concern primarily for _feminist philosophers_ as if (alleged) attempted rape, sexual harassment, and abuse of power should not be of immense moral concern to all philosophers.

Anonymous said...

NotShowalter,

You say:

"The conversation at Leiter doesn't seem to me to be that much better. There's a lot of backpeddling and blame-shifting, but the shortcomings of the committee, from what I can tell, just haven't been addressed by anyone involved."

There are so many obvious examples on the Leiter thread of someone addressing the very charges you and JB mention re: the purported shortcomings of the committee. Did you not read them? Not understand them? Do they not count as addressing your concerns unless they count your concerns as legitimate? It seems to me that you're either (i) dumber than shit or (ii) intentionally arguing in bad faith. I take (ii) to be troll-like.

NotShowalter said...



No, no, no you're right 7:35, I spoke too rashly. Strike those two sentences. I submitted this before reading up on the exchanges that took place this afternoon. I'm actually very glad to see that this is getting the attention that it has. My hope is that at some point soon we'll get a debriefing from the committee about how they see these things working in the future. Until then, it is refreshing to see some bit of discussion about it. Either way, you're quite right to object to those two sentences.

NotShowalter said...

1:45/7:34 understands trolls to be "people who do not engage seriously with the issues". I trust that it will be obvious to everyone of good will, upon future reflection, that almost everyone taking part in these conversations was doing so seriously. So the fact that people disagree with your brand of 'serious engagement' in no way shows that you're being made a victim when someone objects to what you have to say.

Anonymous said...

"Brownstein, Showalter, Notshowalter, Logicfan, etc. seem like serious people to me."

LOL!

Anonymous said...

http://yaledailynews.com/crosscampus/2013/10/13/sexual-misconduct-protest-at-inaugural-block-party/

Anonymous said...

For every case that breaks wide open, there are five sealed shut and hidden away, some of which make the current scandals rocking professional philosophy look downright wholesome by comparison. Anon 9:45 knows the score.

Anonymous said...

Since Jaded has hijacked TPS and turned it into her own personal sounding board to shriek about this or that remark she didn't happen to agree with on another blog (comments closed to deflect criticism, of course), I'll leave my simple plea here instead:

Can we have Mr. Zero back? PLEASE?!

Anonymous said...

@ 8:53, etc.

It's one thing to say that you don't agree with a view or argument. It's another to say that the writer can't be serious.

I certainly think that some of the things suggested by posters here and on other blogs are pretty ridiculous. But it's clear that both sides genuinely think they have something to say. If you're the same as 1:45, then may I suggest you learn the principle of charity. It's not difficult to sketch out the structure of the arguments and objections being made on both sides. Few of them are as 'shitty' as you keep saying.

Also, for the life of me I can't figure out what this obsession with pseudonyms is all about. Fergadsake, these are blogs that allow us to post anonymously. 1:45 wants to 'expose' someone for (in 1:45's mind) using two or more different signatures. If someone has posted anonymously or used one or more pseudonyms, then shouldn't we think there's a reason for doing that and respect the person's privacy?

What moral imperative can have been breached here even if all these people were pseudonyms (which I really, really doubt)? Is everyone who comments on a blog morally obligated to stick to one name only? Why?

Marx and Engels famously wrote reviews of Kapital under several pseudonyms. Many historical figures appended false names to their works on publication. So have many novelists and other figures. Does this puritanical zeal extend to them also?

If you think an argument is bad, then address that argument. You've clarified that you can't even find it in yourself to take some of those arguments seriously. Apparently you're pretty well alone in that. Maybe trying to see the other perspective would be more valuable than stalking commenters by looking for argumentative similarities. It's creepy and it doesn't help us move forward on the important sexism issues.

Anonymous said...

And JPK and PJK both use the coherence theory of truth as an analogy for something? Well, geez, maybe they're the same person, and maybe one of them read it in the other one.

No, 6:43 PM, those comments are exactly the same. On your hypothesis, someone went into a year-old Smoker thread, found this dreadful point made by someone signing posts as "PJK", plagiarized it, and then signed it as "JPK." Yeah, that happened. It's definitely not the same person. No one would make the same point twice in different comment threads.

Anonymous said...

Also, for the life of me I can't figure out what this obsession with pseudonyms is all about. Fergadsake, these are blogs that allow us to post anonymously. 1:45 wants to 'expose' someone for (in 1:45's mind) using two or more different signatures. If someone has posted anonymously or used one or more pseudonyms, then shouldn't we think there's a reason for doing that and respect the person's privacy? What moral imperative can have been breached here even if all these people were pseudonyms (which I really, really doubt)? Is everyone who comments on a blog morally obligated to stick to one name only? Why?

It's called sockpuppetry, genius. It's lying. It's dishonest. Are you really this fucking stupid? "what's the point of being honest when we're on the honor system? If someone is being blatantly dishonest by using various pseudonyms in order to create the false impression that his views are more popular and reasonable than they are, shouldn't we assume there's a good reason and respect their privacy?" Are you a psycho?

Anonymous said...

To my ear, when I hear the accusation of "Troll!!" on an internet thread, it sounds just like the accusation "Witch!!" in eras past.

And it pretty much serves the same purpose, immediately discrediting everything the accused stands for.

Anonymous said...

"No, 6:43 PM, those comments are exactly the same. On your hypothesis, someone went into a year-old Smoker thread, found this dreadful point made by someone signing posts as "PJK", plagiarized it, and then signed it as "JPK."

OK, let's suppose that, surprise, surprise, JPK of Leiter fame is the SAME person who posted as JPK of a year ago on this blog.

Why on earth is that a problem? Why would PKJ (or is it JPK?!?) even imagine that anyone would make the connection, or that anyone should care? Since PKJ probably just made up the name on the spot a year ago, why believe he/she even remembers?

Does anyone really think that PKJ was deliberately engaging in "sockpuppetry" here, saying to him/herself "Oh, if I use one name in a post on this blog, and a different name (I'll permute two letters!!) in another blog elsewhere a year later, people will remember both of course, believe it's more than one person, and will conclude that it's a stampede!"

What is even being argued here?

Where is the locus of outrage?

This is just absurd.

Anonymous said...

9:45 posts a bombshell like that and then people go right back to petty discussion of pseudonyms and trolls and ...

Seriously people, did you click on that link?

Anonymous said...

No, I'm not a psycho, 6:55. I've just been trained in something called critical thinking.

The strength of testimony is weakened if the credibility of its source does, but we're not talking about testimony here. We're talking arguments. The people whose views you can't abide are providing reasons for their views. Don't like those reasons? Then criticize 'em. Want to dismiss them without giving a reason? That's your right, too. But for you to get all frothy at the mouth as you yap on and on about whoever you think came up with these arguments, well, that's a classic case of an ad hominem fallacy.

The rest of your comments make even less sense. You duck, once again, the objection that people quite commonly repeat others' critical arguments, examples and all (though I don't give a rat's ass if JPK is PJK -- wow, what a disguise -- or if JPK just copied an argument from PJK). Your conspiracy theory is that the troll or trolls are posting under several aliases in order to make their views appear more reasonable? How is that accomplished? We're all philosophers here. If we can see the fallacy in an argument if it's bad, no matter how many times someone cuts and pastes it under different titles or anonymous postings.

Speaking of which, I notice that you haven't signed your true name. None of us know how many of the previous anonymous posts are from you, or whether you're also a famous figure in the field, or whether you've also posted under another name. And you know what? None of us really care.

To be honest, I'm a little surprised that the Smoker moderators have let this speculation/stalking go on so long without censoring the comments. Moderators, I'm not in favor of censoring this person's arguments on the Colorado issue, but I think this is getting creepy and inappropriate enough to stop allowing this personal obsession to continue. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

One other point.

The suggestion that great efforts should be made to "out" someone, subjecting them to ugly shunning, professional jeopardy, and perhaps even random attacks, simply on the suspicion that they might be engaged in "sockpuppetry", is nothing short of vicious.

Is this the sort of "moral" "principle" for which many feminists choose to stand?

I sincerely hope not.

Anonymous said...

This is 8:33 again. Just to confirm: I'm not 8:39, though I agree with the sentiment.

Not that it should matter, but apparently it does to someone *ahem*

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure that 12:48 is right. I'm pretty sure Showalter, Brownstien, PJK, and JPK are all the same person. I'm pretty sure it's the same guy who posts as justinfromcanada. (I'm not sure about NotShowalter, but when someone's entire reason for existing is that he is not Showalter, but he agrees with everything Showalter says, and always defends only him from critics, and posts links to Showalter's blog all the time, you can't help but wonder.) In any case, I'm pretty sure I know the guy, and the more I think about it, the more I'm sure he's the guy. I don't want to say much about why think so because I don't want to out him under his real identity. And I suspect/hope that the mods wouldn't post this if it identified him. Maybe they won't post this either. But I'm almost completely certain that it's all one guy, and when Brownstien claims to be a woman, he's lying. It's not a lot of people. It's one guy dishonestly and purposefully pretending to be a lot of people.

Mr. Zero said...

Just to be clear, I thought very carefully about not approving anon 9:40's comment. In particular, the reference to justinfromcanada gave me pause. I believe in the value and importance of anonymity and pseudonymity, and I am committed to maintaining its integrity. But I also believe that it's important not to abuse one's pseudonymity, and that if this one person has been posting widely under a variety of identities in the way 12:48 and 9:40 claim, that would be a very scummy and dishonest violation of that integrity. And since 'justinfromcanada' is itself a pseudonym, and I'm not aware of justinfromcanada being out under his real name, I decided to let the comment through. Maybe the accusation in general and 12:40's two cents in particular are not worth considering, but I would rather not make that decision myself on everyone's behalf. And it's also possible that I'm wrong about all this, and that publishing that comment was a mistake, and if it was, I apologize. Also, because I'm also not in a position to confirm or disconfirm these accusations, I am inclined to agree with 8:33 that further discussion about who is or is not a sockpuppet is not likely to be productive.

Anonymous said...

"If you think an argument is bad, then address that argument. You've clarified that you can't even find it in yourself to take some of those arguments seriously."

Life is too short.

"Maybe trying to see the other perspective would be more valuable than stalking commenters.... It's creepy and it doesn't help us move forward on the important sexism issues."

LOL!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to confirm that I'm one of the people this individual conjectures to be identical to others, and I'm not. Under other circumstances, I'd divulge more. I don't know any of the other three people and can't comment on that.

I suspect that these people who are trying to 'out' some other people/person are also just one individual. But you know what? I can't tell. And that's kind of the point. If someone accuses someone else of being a sockpuppet for a third person, then nothing productive can happen as a result. If the charge is false, the person will just deny it. If the charge is true, then the person will just deny it. And denials can't please the accuser or clarify the situation, because the accuser can keep on with the accusations. In the end, either the accuser gives up or gets somewhere in outing the person he or she accuses.

These accusations do have the effect of diverting attention away from whatever the issue is and toward an uncomfortable public shaming of an individual, guilty or innocent, by stirring up suspicion. I see no good reason for posting such comments, and several for not doing so. I'm glad Mr. Zero is calling a stop to them now.

Again, the general charge in this case is false, and could be hurtful to someone.

Anonymous said...

Apparently it's a minor point in this thread, but... uh... Yale? Harassment? Anyone?

Anonymous said...

http://episyllogism.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/sunday-sermon-on-feminism/

http://episyllogism.wordpress.com/2009/08/29/feminism-that-supports-misogyny-whats-going-on-tildeb/?relatedposts_exclude=7804

Anonymous said...

"Yale? Harassment? Anyone?"

I looked at the link. I presume that the particular point of interest here is that someone is making the claim that a member of the Yale philosophy department engaged in sexual harassment.

But the thing is, there's nothing in that link that gives any detail as to who or what was involved.

So what are we supposed to do with that?

How are we supposed to calibrate outrage to an incident about which we know essentially nothing? Or are we just obliged to turn it up to 11, just because somewhere somebody said something bad happened?

Anonymous said...

I'm a Yale philosophy graduate student. There's been talk and some action over the past few years about aiming for better gender balance among graduate students. I would have thought that any sexual harassment that had occurred in the department would have come up in these discussions. But I haven't heard even the shadow of a rumour. The picture linked to above is the first I've heard.

EagleEye said...

The Yale article (with details on a sign in the picture) (in tandem with Heidi Howkins Lockwood's comment (number 82) on a recently closed new apps thread) offers information a lot more specific than 12.57 has managed to glean.

The implication is: that 4 faculty at Yale have been accused of sexual misconduct in the last 5 years; that 2 of those have been accused of sexual assault; that at least one of the faculty in question remains in the department; that others have been allowed to leave with lucrative severance packages and their actions unpublicised; that the victims of the misconduct and the survivors of the assaults have been offered money (whether by department or university admin is unclear) in exchange for nondisclosure agreements. HHL clarifies at newapps that she is not among the victims.

This does indeed seem like serious shit, nondisclosure agreements/ severance packages in particular, as this (cf the Ludlow case) implies that Yale may, in washing its hands of the perpetrators, have just shunted them along to other unknowing departments whose students' safety is thus greatly compromised.

So, those are the claims on the table. It's worth noting that the Yale article is 4 months old. HHL's newapps comment is from yesterday.

Jon Cogburn said...

Whoever is moderating this blog can easily find the IP addresses and determine the extent of the sockpuppetry, and then e-mail the offenders or (if they don't include an e-mail) issue a general warning that if the person doesn't cut it out immediately his IP address will be banned.

This is *not* a witch hunt in any sense of the term. Sockpuppetry completely derails conversations and thus undermines our ability to have public forums like this.

Anonymous said...

12:57 here.

I had thought that the point of the link was that a member of the philosophy department at Yale was involved in sexual harassment. 2:15 says he/she is a grad student there and has heard nothing of the sort.

Now if the harasser was a member of the philosophical community, I can see the relevance here, because that is a pretty small community, and it is our community. (Although it's useful to bear in mind that there are in the neighborhood of 8-11K philosophy faculty members across the US, and the number of verified cases of sexual harassment we are aware of is, relatively speaking, exceedingly small. Now it may be that the number of verified cases of sexual harassment in philosophy of which we are aware is much, much smaller than the number of cases of sexual harassment in philosophy. But the verified cases of which we are aware would have to be not just the tip of the iceberg, but the tip of the tip of the tip of the iceberg for the problem to be of such size that it would present the gross impact claimed by those who believe it should be a major focus of our community.)

If the idea is that we need to think about how Yale treats sexual harassment even in the cases in which the perpetrators are in other departments than philosophy, then again it's useful to look at the numbers. Yale has over 4000 faculty. The number of sexual harassers here is 4 -- 1 out of 1000.

Are we supposed to believe that the potency of 1 verified harasser out of a 1000 -- or even, say, 1 actual (but not verified) harasser out of 100 -- is so great, and their combined effect so pervasive, that they play a key role in suppressing the prospects of women at Yale?

Do the numbers mean nothing here?

Frankly, the thing that's hardest to accept about much of the feverishness over sexual harassment is the investment of nearly magical powers in its presence, however small it appears by numbers we can verify.

Anonymous said...

This is 2.15 again, addressing 12.57/7.37's note about numbers. What counts as a small or negligible number of something depends on what that thing is. Consider a negligible number of pennies vs. a negligible number of diamonds. So is 1/1000 a negligible number of sexual harassers? The number doesn't answer the question all by itself. It depends on how serious you think sexual harassment is, and that depends on, among other things, how destructive a single case can be to the mutual trust, comfort, reputation of a community --- not even to mention what it does to the victim!

So it may be worth devoting considerable resources even to infrequent events. As to Yale, my sense is that the department itself (perhaps not the university admin) would take any incident very seriously, and do what it takes to restore the victim and the community. But again, this is the first I'm hearing about any incidents.

Anonymous said...

The article mentions that protestors named the philosophy department as one of the departments supposedly harbouring perpetrators, 7:37. I am inclined to believe them. And yes, 7:37, one harasser in a department can have a very profound effect on women in that department. Especially if one or more of those women happen to share interests or work with the harasser. And especially if the department's response to the harassment sends a clear message to women in the department that harmful behaviour will be hushed up, and the harassers rewarded with generous severance packages. And when this practice becomes known it will affect the morale of women in other departments, who would have reason to suspect the university might be similarly unsupportive were they, too, to experience harassment.

Anonymous said...

The blissful, almost wilful ignorance of sexual harassment scandals involving distinguished figures that have been covered up under various agreements--some never reached that stage on account of the tendency of administrations to close ranks--borders on autistic.

Anonymous said...

737

Every department with a harasser is also a department with at least one other faculty member who turned a blind eye toward or who did not, ultimately, do anything about it or an administration that failed to follow up on requests to do something about it.

We're talking about the climate here not necessarily one's risk of being personally harassed. One bad apple in a barrel screws everything up.

EagleEye, regrettably not LazerPen said...

12.57,

Apologies for sloppiness in my previous message - the claim isn't that the 4 faculty members in question are just at Yale, but that the Yale philosophy department provides 4 recent sexual misconductors, and that there are plenty of others throughout the university. See the red sign held by a woman with glasses in the article's accompanying picture.

Adjust your math accordingly. Apologies for the ambiguity of my previous comment.

Anonymous said...

7:37 here.

So from the comments I've received in response, the answer to the question I posed, "Do the numbers mean nothing here?", is: No. It doesn't matter if there's 1 sexual harasser out of 100, or 1 out of 100,000. By mystic, psychic connections, all women everywhere are gravely and irretrievably damaged by the mere existence somewhere of a harasser. They can function only at a small fraction of their capacities when they are made aware of the existence, however remote, of such an harasser and his enablers.

Got it.

But this point of view does raise a question: what is even the point of fighting sexual harassment, at least from the standpoint of the larger effect on women, if the numbers just don't matter? Even if, through the impossible, the numbers reduce by a factor of 10, harassers will still exist, and cast their baneful pall over all women. So why would we ever expect that fighting sexual harassment is going to improve the lot of most women in academe?

Anonymous said...

7:37/10:12 What makes you think that the ratio is 1/1000? The allegation is that 4 members of the philosophy department were accused. There is no implication that these exhaust those accused in the university as a whole. We don't have that information. The information we have is that 4 were accused in 5 years in a department now around 30.

Anonymous said...

Of course numbers matter somewhat, but the severity of the actions also matters. If 4 out of 4000 professors at Yale murdered students, the situation would be regarded as abhorrent, in need of drastic and immediate action. Perhaps you think sexual harassment is not as bad as murder, but that's not the point. You can't just look at the numbers, since the nature of the actions matters too. So really, going on about the numbers is just a way to argue that sexual harassment is no big deal, which is much more obviously implausible (hence the obfuscation).

Anonymous said...

"By mystic, psychic connections, all women everywhere are gravely and irretrievably damaged by the mere existence somewhere of a harasser. They can function only at a small fraction of their capacities when they are made aware of the existence, however remote, of such an harasser and his enablers.

Got it."

No, you don't. And stop being a jackass.

NotShowalter said...

Motion to the floor: let's try not to talk to each other like we're idiots, moral monsters, or fanatics.

Let's also try to be a little less fanatical and a bit more charitable ourselves.

(For the worriers: I remain non-identical with each of the bogeymen discussed, and like the anonymous above their identities are unknown to me.)

WV: theypma neighbours

Anonymous said...

"Motion to the floor: let's try not to talk to each other like we're idiots, moral monsters, or fanatics."

You mean like how 10:12 am treats the rest of us, right?

Anonymous said...

Leiter is gross:


"Anyone who posts on Facebook something like that is asking to be sued: for libel (Ludlow was alleged to have engaged in conduct that may constitute sexual assault), for tortious interference with contract, and perhaps other torts. Don't go there, folks."

Look, I get the 'alleged' part. Everyone should always watch their butt (and it just the right thing to do) to use that rider. But 'MAY' constitute sexual assault? What was alleged may not have occurred but what was alleged is, by just about any standard, sexual assault! We all know Leiter plays favorites. But this kind of soft footing is just disgusting.

Anonymous said...

And why does he feel the alleged need to insert himself into every fucking thing?

Anonymous said...

But 'MAY' constitute sexual assault? What was alleged may not have occurred but what was alleged is, by just about any standard, sexual assault! We all know Leiter plays favorites. But this kind of soft footing is just disgusting.


Well, not if it was consensual, as Ludlow appears to be claiming. Hedging the claim with an epistemic modal seems to me, far from "disgusting", the responsible thing to do, given that none of us have any idea what actually transpired.

Anonymous said...

Never harass others or bother with relationships, as these activities involve enormous opportunity costs. A huge waste of time in addition to being morally wrong--not to mention illegal. Most likely the harassment minimizers here are interested in having relatioships. Fools. Otherwise there is no reason to bother making unpublishable arguments. The best course of action is avoid relationships, a fortiori avoid harassment, and do something productive with your time on earth instead.

Anonymous said...

10:23,

What was alleged is that it was non-consensual. So, what was alleged constitutes assault. No modal is needed (beyond the "alleged").

Anonymous said...

Actually, what was alleged probably isn't sexual assault under Illinois law, since that requires "sexual penetration", and unwanted kissing doesn't fit the definition. Northwestern defines "sexual assault" more broadly in its code of conduct. But Leiter's point about the law is probably right ... for what it's worth.

Anonymous said...

"Motion to the floor: let's try not to talk to each other like we're idiots, moral monsters, or fanatics."

You mean like how 10:12 am treats the rest of us, right?


And 12:24 pm

NotShowalter said...

I believe convention dictates that a motion must be seconded before the floor is open for discussion about its particulars (anyone have a copy of Robert's Rules?).

As for sockpuppetry, I think the concerns of Cogburn, et al, are overblown. While Cogburn rightly points out that there are abuses toward which anonymity lends itself, the specifics of the current situation suggest that nothing like that is going on here. Some of the people engaging in these conversations have made it abundantly clear that they are willing to go after a person's professional livelihood should they not agree with some bit of feminist political ideology.

And let's be frank--whatever else it may be, feminism is, and has been for some time, a political movement directed toward advancing the standing of women in academia. Given the various ways feminists have been able to institutionalize certain forms of discourse and social expectations, there are very real consequences for those of us who find fault with some of the particulars of feminist political ideology (I apologize for using such sweeping categories--as always, I remain committed to the need to consider the particulars, and I've tried to make some progress on that front in the discussion about the Boulder fiasco above). For this reason alone, the anonymity of those taking part in these discussions should be preserved.

Finally, I want to reiterate my suggestion that people glance over a few of the exchanges above and try to read them with unbiased eyes. I suspect that most people would find the feminist showing here to be pretty poor.

Anonymous said...

More on Title IX here, and well worth a look:

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324600704578405280211043510

Anonymous said...

@ NotShowalter

I could be wrong, but I think you're conflating a 'willingness to go after someone's professional livelihood if they're not willing to abide by appropriate interpersonal and professional norms of behavior' with a willingness "to go after a person's professional livelihood should they not agree with some bit of feminist political ideology."

A demand that we treat our female colleagues with respect, and listen to their concerns, should not be controversial. Insofar as it is, that's a problem.

Anonymous said...

This is the clogged sluice of the Turkish toilet of philosophy, hurling feces in every direction, while commenters add to it. I would hardly be surprised if you invite legal redress for this miserable squabbling over modal operators. Add this to your modal calculus of doubt: penurious philophasters summoned to account for idle speculations by interrogators of no greater faith, forced to pay threfold for kites of uncashed checks and promissory notes for arguments of no originality, born of the frustration of the pulchritudinously different.

Anonymous said...

2:31, I repeat:


http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887324600704578405280211043510

John Peter said...

In philosophy, criticising one thing simply is taking it seriously. that is why several conversations during this topic's neighborhood area unit thus boring

NotShowalter said...

I suspect we won't be hearing anything from many feminists about stories like that, 7:03. Once the narrative comes to include voices that speak against feminism, the moralizers either condemn those who dissent or ignore them entirely. Nothing necessary about that kind of behavior, and I don't think it's essential to feminism in any meaningful sense, but it is the sort of thing one notices about the way some people socialize with and differentiate themselves from one another.

And 2:31 seems to be misunderstanding the target of my complaint. I'm not trying to make a space for people who are "not willing to abide by appropriate interpersonal and professional norms of behavior". Indeed, supposing that this is my view is part of the very problem I (and others!) am pointing to. I'm not objecting to those who condemn and ignore people who violate professional norms of decency. I'm instead objecting to the moral condemnation and professional bullying that's going on in this very conversation (for a period there were voices calling for publically outing and shaming a supposed sockpuppeteer).

Don't get me wrong, I'm not really worried about any of this silliness. I'm just pointing out that it's happening, and I'm trying to indicate some of the ways this sort of view (and behavior) damages a community of good-faith interlocutors. But there's no great moral travesty in this conversation, and in this sense it's quite unlike the problems that CU or the family of the author of that article are going through. Still, I do not think that means we should accord no significance at all to this conversation and the kind of exchanges we've seen here.

Anonymous said...

Hi 7:03. I saw the link you posted, and I certainly concede that such abuses occur.

What I don't see is the reason to think that such abuses are occurring in this case -- i.e., in the case of the climate concerns about professional philosophy.

Anonymous said...

I find it really humorous that those protesting feminist politics are so quick to criticize feminist anecdotes for being incomplete or biased, yet seem to have no problem latching on to stories like that put forward by 7:03 PM.

That story does not show much of anything. A man was accused of sexual harassment. Multiple witnesses put forward testimony corroborating the accusation. The process was 'nightmarish.' Ultimately, the accused wasn't charged of anything.

How do we know, as outside observers, that the assault did not occur? Why shouldn't the tribunal have taken the testimony of multiple witnesses seriously? Or, more pertinently, why should we make judgments about this either way, given that we don't even know what they claimed to witness? And finally, why should we take the accused mother's word for any of this?

All the author seems to establish is that the accused man felt really bad about the whole process. Ya, that sucks. When someone accuses you of a crime and you have to defend yourself, I'm sure that makes you feel really bad. But where, exactly, is the injustice in all this?

The absurdity is that if a case with this amount of evidence and bias was used as support for feminist politics, it would be dismissed and ridiculed for all the reasons above. This kind of one-sidedness seems to be a running theme in this discussion thread. Just as Notshowalter kept claiming that his interlocutors had an unfavorable view of the people they were engaging with, Notshowalter has now convinced him/herself that anyone who speaks in favor of feminism can be dismissed because such people will "either condemn those who dissent or ignore them entirely." I don't think anyone who has responded here has been ignoring you completely or condemning you. I just think they're not persuaded by your rhetoric.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 6:46. I'm the anonymous who posted the link.

I'm agnostic about whether that's happening in this case. I only posted it because the very loose standards of evidence now required to establish sexual harassment on campus, and the bizarre restrictions on an accused's ability to defend him/herself, etc., seems very important to bear in mind if we draw inferences about the pervasiveness of sexism/harassment from these findings of sexual harassment.

NotShowalter said...

Hi 7:07,

You write:

"Just as Notshowalter kept claiming that his interlocutors had an unfavorable view of the people they were engaging with, Notshowalter has now convinced him/herself that anyone who speaks in favor of feminism can be dismissed because such people will "either condemn those who dissent or ignore them entirely.""

I've tried to engage with lots of people here, and I think the record will show that I haven't been dismissive. My comments have been pretty specific to what people here (and elsewhere) are saying and doing.

And truly, I'd be happy to strike the first paragraph of my last comment. But based on what we've seen here I wasn't too optimistic. Perhaps it's just early in the day. At any rate, carry on.

Anonymous said...

I think most of us who don't reflexively line up with all feminist positions acknowledge that sexual harassers exist in academe in some number. But where is there ever concession on feminist side that there exist people, in some number, who will accuse someone of sexual harassment either falsely or based on the most insignificant or exaggerated incidents? It's as if feminists have no idea that borderline and narcissistic personalities exist, and in non-trivial numbers, and that some proportion of them will be ready to lie or distort to achieve some unsavory end.

You see, it's the failure of the "feminist" side to make such concessions that drives the kind of bizarre processes described in the article linked to. There is a presumption of guilt based on mere accusation, and absurdly constrained opportunity to dispute it.

There is a reason that in civilized society, as it has evolved over the millennia, there is generally a presumption of innocence when someone is accused. The most important of these reasons is that accusers can't be given free license to accuse without any strong obligation to support those accusations. And that is key because, as society has observed over the millennia, there simply do exist, in sizable numbers, people who would exploit the opportunity to make accusations without any corresponding need to defend those accusations against countervailing evidence.

I wonder if most feminists will ever come to terms with the reality of false or grossly distorted accusations and what it implies. I don't think many of us on the other side deny the reality of some substantial number of true accusations. But we, in contrast, are fully aware as well of the reality of some not insignificant number of false accusations. We believe our processes for determining guilt must have safeguards built to deal with both possibilities.

Anonymous said...

9:11 continued.

It's not just feminists, of course, who have resented the obstacles introduced by such principles of due process as "presumed innocent until proven guilty".

Ideologues and fanatics of many stripes have worked tirelessly to undermine such principles. Some think that we need to exclude cases of terrorism from standard principles; others hold that pedophiles need to be carved out as exceptions; in years past, some regarded Communists as too insidious and destructive to be handled like others.

The barbarians at the gate come in many tribes; but civilized people must resist them all.

Anonymous said...

When have any feminists actually claimed that we should eliminate due process, or presume guilt on the basis of accusation?

As far as I know, no feminists have argued anything of the sort. They have called for an end to institutional protection of harassers and argued that policies need to be revised in order to ensure that there are consequences for individuals when there is evidence of harassment.

But the claim that feminists want to take away your rights or remove the presumption of innocence is just hogwash.

Anonymous said...

Hi 9:11,

I'm sure one can find individuals who profess to be feminists who are, as you suggest, barbarians. I'm also fairly confident that one can find individuals who will refuse to concede that there are false claims of sexual misconduct. I would, however, ask you to reconsider whether this is true of feminists and feminism in general. In my experience, it isn't.

Anonymous said...

"But the claim that feminists want to take away your rights or remove the presumption of innocence is just hogwash."

Look at the claims made in the link above as to how the process was tilted against the accused, and in favor of the accuser.

Suffice to say, such a procedure would be far outside what would be permitted in any court of law. And I don't see how the process described could possibly be thought a reasonable implementation of "presumed innocent until proven guilty", as we ordinarily understand that term, in which a high standard for proof of guilt goes hand in hand. By excluding basic kinds of evidence and counsel, the effect is clearly, and quite deliberately, to tilt the process as much as possible in the favor of the accuser, and against the accused. How can that be a situation of which we can fairly say that innocence is being presumed, and guilt must be proven?

Really, your inability to see this is exactly the sort of problem I'm pointing to.

And of course every group of ideologues and fanatics wants to pretend that the new processes they wish to introduce are, somehow, consistent with the sort of due process society has embraced in the past. But that is little more than spin and propaganda. The entire point of these new procedures is to find ways around these protections as we have always known them, precisely because they frustrate the goals of the ideologues and fanatics.

"I'm also fairly confident that one can find individuals who will refuse to concede that there are false claims of sexual misconduct. I would, however, ask you to reconsider whether this is true of feminists and feminism in general."

I can only say that the leap to conclusions about guilt in those accused of sexual misconduct among most feminists always seems immediate. Again, most feminists will also pay lip service to the notion that false accusations can happen -- what else are they going to say, in civilized company? But it is clearly regarded as a rare occurrence, indeed so rare that processes to determine guilt need pay little note to the possibility that the accusation might have been manufactured or exaggerated. Again, that is exactly why feminists insist on introducing processes in these settings that differ so vastly in basic principles from what would be permitted in a court of law.

A little forthrightness on these points would go a long way.

Anonymous said...

There is a basic problem here, in failing to distinguish between rules governing what we believe, and rules governing when the state uses coercive force.

If I have a goal of increasing my true beliefs, and the belief that the worthiness of this goal trumps that the goal of minimizing false beliefs, then I will, when I hear of an accusation of sexual harassment, side with the accuser, because while there is some chance of false accusation, the chances that the accusation is true are higher. This claim about probabilities will be one that is itself not certain, but so what? There is nothing wrong in employing such a rule.

It would certainly be wrong to endorse a rule of criminal procedure one which we tried to maximize conviction of guilty parties, but that is because when we make a mistake in criminal cases we treat the wrongly convicted in a deeply wrong way. When we make a mistake in coming to believe that someone has harassed someone else, we do not harm them in any significant way.

What is going on in debates on blogs are not criminal proceedings, and the suggestion that rules appropriate for criminal proceedings (like innocent until proven guilty) should be used is confused. These are not rules designed to get at the truth over all else, they are rules designed to guard against misuse of state power.

Anonymous said...

Using this one anecdote (coming from the accused's mother, an obviously biased source) as evidence that feminists are trying to "find ways around these protections as we have always known them, precisely because they frustrate [their] goals" is akin to claiming that because one person has experienced sexual harassment, patriarchal norms structure every aspect of our lives.

And, despite the fact that many people have accused feminists of making this kind of inference, no serious feminist philosopher ever has. The interesting thing about this observation is that the shittiniess of the arguments on the anti-feminist side keep on mirroring the accusations anti-feminists are making towards feminists. In this thread, nearly every mistake I have seen someone attribute to feminism has actually been made by one of the proponents of anti-feminism.

Truly hilarious and entertaining.

I'm starting to suspect that the anti-fems ITT are actually all feminists who are just trying to make the anti-fem position look so ludicrous that no one could ever accept it.

Anonymous said...

12:11,

The issue I'm (11:14) most focused on here is not what is said on the blogs -- though the leap to conclusions on blogs by feminists, which is notorious to those who do not so identify, suggests the skewed mindset -- but rather the sorts of formal procedures described in that link.

Does anyone doubt that these procedures were set up as they were to appease feminist agitation on the point? Does anyone doubt that those procedures are vastly more tilted toward the accuser than any sort of procedure we find in the law, or which were common even on campuses some years past?

Again, the tilt is deliberate. And I don't see how anyone can claim it embodies fairly the principle of "presumed innocent until proven guilty", as we ordinarily understand the phrase. If the procedure implementing that phrase essentially confers far greater license to the accuser, and disallows standard methods of defense to the accuser, how does that phrase become anything other than empty?

In show trials across the world, it is claimed that "presumed innocent until proven guilty" holds, as are, supposedly, many other standards of due process. But it is a sham: the implementation shows otherwise.

Anonymous said...

This is anonymous 12:11.

Let me add that it seems reasonable to take the appropriateness of using the principles appropriate to criminal procedures to come in degrees.

It is not appropriate at all to use them in belief formation, I think. One factor that would make the appropriateness go up would be the costs potentially imposed by a judgment. So in the case of university judicial actions, the appropriateness is higher than in the case of individual belief formation, but a case needs to be made that the level of appropriateness in university judicial actions is the same as that in criminal cases. It cannot just be assumed.

I think university procedures can use a lower standard of proof both because the potential penalties are much less severe, but also because the harms you can encounter (losing your job, losing tenure, etc.) are also harms about which the obligation to not cause them is weaker. We have a right to our freedom. We do not have a right to work at a particular institution unless our contract says so. Or so it seems to me.

Anonymous said...

"Does anyone doubt that those procedures are vastly more tilted toward the accuser than any sort of procedure we find in the law, or which were common even on campuses some years past?"

According to the link that was posted above, it seems like the method they used is basically preponderance of evidence (more likely than not, %50.1, etc), which not only appears in the law, but is the norm for all civil cases.

Anonymous said...

"Using this one anecdote (coming from the accused's mother, an obviously biased source) as evidence that feminists are trying to "find ways around these protections as we have always known them, precisely because they frustrate [their] goals" is akin to claiming that because one person has experienced sexual harassment, patriarchal norms structure every aspect of our lives."

Yes, it is the mother of the accused who wrote this article. I expect that she will defend her son. And I won't pretend to know for sure whether or not her son is actually guilty, though his exoneration is respectable evidence.

But the point I'm making is not whether her son in particular is guilty, about which it would be hard to trust her statements. What I do think is much more reliable is her report on the sort of procedures employed. And that is what I think is worthy of note here.

And this certainly is not an isolated case of how those procedures have been implemented. It is well known that feminists have been pushing hard for such procedures. So acting as if this situation proves nothing is simply to pretend that well known facts aren't so. This case is simply an example of the sorts of pressures feminists have been bringing to bear, and the product of that pressure.

Would anybody seriously deny that the backing away from anything like "reasonable doubt" to a standard of proof far more tilted to the accuser has come about because of feminist agitation?

Anonymous said...

Continuing the debate.

"According to the link that was posted above, it seems like the method they used is basically preponderance of evidence (more likely than not, %50.1, etc), which not only appears in the law, but is the norm for all civil cases."

But they are NOT the norm for cases in which someone is accused of crimes. In the past, those protections have been extended within institutions to cases of serious personal misconduct, for which their are potentially great penalties in addition to grave damage to personal and professional reputation. This is justified on the same grounds that justify them in criminal cases. One can hardly act as if it's of no real consequence to basic notions of fairness of civilized society to change that standard in the cases one carves out as "special" for ideological reasons.

And, again, to invoke the phrase "presumed innocent until proven guilty" -- what does that even mean when "preponderance of evidence" is the standard, and the accusations are, unto themselves, considered of equal weight to denials? How little does it take to tip such a balance to 51% when he-said-she-said gets you to 50%? A loyal friend who'll back you up? And this does not even take into account the other things mentioned in the article, such as the denial of counsel, the apparent dismissal of certain kinds of evidence, etc. (Even if the mother distorted this somewhat, I doubt it was a fabrication out of whole cloth.)

Anonymous said...

"Would anybody seriously deny that the backing away from anything like "reasonable doubt" to a standard of proof far more tilted to the accuser has come about because of feminist agitation?"

Well, given the comments on this thread alone, it seems a lot of people seriously deny it. Perhaps the more salient question is: why do you believe it?

Anonymous said...

If we used the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt to issue disciplines on sexual harassment such discipline would never be given to anyone. This is because nearly all harassment happens between exactly two people, often behind closed doors.

This is why preponderance of evidence is a much more useful standard in these (and all civil) cases, especially since (as another commentator noted), the punishments doled out by university tribunals are much less severe than in criminal matters.

At this point, I'm convinced you know as much about the law as you do about feminism.

Mr. Zero said...

But they are NOT the norm for cases in which someone is accused of crimes.

That's true, but the dude in that WSJ opinion piece was not accused of a crime, and the proceedings described are not criminal proceedings. It's not at all clear what's going on in that piece, but this much is obvious: the trouble he was in was not of a criminal nature.

One can hardly act as if it's of no real consequence to basic notions of fairness of civilized society to change that standard in the cases one carves out as "special" for ideological reasons.

That's not what it is. As I understand it, "preponderance" is just the normal standard for civil actions. It's not "special" and it's not carved out for ideological reasons. It's standard operating procedure.

How little does it take to tip such a balance to 51% when he-said-she-said gets you to 50%?

I don't know, but certainly no more than it takes to tip you down to 49.9%. It's not inherently unfair; it's not Title IX or the feminists; it's just basic jurisprudence. It's how O.J. could be found not guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman in criminal court, and then found liable in civil court for their wrongful deaths.

Now. The thing about the denial of counsel struck me as pretty weird. But the author doesn't come close to demonstrating that it had anything to do with Title IX. I want to hear more about this detail before I form an opinion about it.

Apart from that, she doesn't come close to demonstrating that the college did anything wrong. A woman lodged a sexual harassment claim against her son; the college held a hearing in which he was made to tell his side of the story to a skeptical audience; (according to his mom) he didn't do it; the charge was dismissed. He did have to undergo the ordeal of the hearing, but that's not the fault of the college, or Title IX, or the feminists. That's the fault of the woman who made (what the guy's mom says is) a false complaint. On the contrary, if someone makes a complaint like that, false or not, the college has an obligation to take it seriously, and figure out what really happened. According to the guy's mom, they did that, and they got it right.

Frankly, I'm having trouble seeing what the larger problem is here. I see why she'd be pissed off at the girl, but I have no idea why she's mad about Title IX.

Anonymous said...

Some of these last comments seem to be working with a background assumption that there are a substantial number of sexual assaults are based on false accusations. There is research on this, and the percentage of false accusations is generally thought to be around 10% of all accusations. Emily Bazelon, at Yale, has written about this for mainstream presses: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2009/10/how_often_do_women_falsely_cry_rape.html

If this is correct, it is a serious problem for the falsely accused. But when so few rapes actually result in a criminal prosecution (less than 40%, from what I can gather) or conviction (less than 20%), we shouldn't take the existence of false accusations to mean that universities should have a different standard for assessing rape and sexual assault allegations. No one will dispute that if what happened to the WSJ writer's son is true, it was terrible and unfair. But please do remember that the university is trying to prevent sexual assault.

One last thing Bazelon points out, and that the WSJ author and people on this blog seem to be overlooking. Everyone with sense is hoping for a system in which false accusations are rare or get little traction, both because false accusations are horrible for the accused and because they make things harder legitimate victims of rape and assault. If people wrongly assume that false accusations are common and easy to make, they then assume that women or men who report rape or assault are liars who should be treated with skepticism. So feminists, non-feminists, everyone has an interest care about minimizing false reporting and vetting out false accusations. Please, 9:11, do not suggest that feminists are not sensitive to this issue. Feminists very much care about false accusations, both because we care about justice in general and because we want sexual assault victims to be able to come forward.

Anonymous said...

If we used the standard of beyond a reasonable doubt to issue disciplines on sexual harassment such discipline would never be given to anyone. This is because nearly all harassment happens between exactly two people, often behind closed doors.

Oh, come on, that’s certainly not true. There’s all kinds of evidence of all sorts of sexual harassment. I have personally sat on disciplinary committees that have been presented with very solid evidence of sexual harassment.
Doubt that would be ‘reasonable’ in some cases isn’t reasonable in sexual harassment cases, you might say – I’d agree with that. But you’ve grossly exaggerated the problems with demonstrating that someone is guilty of sexual harassment.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero, do you think university disciplinary hearings are civil actions? Your 2:30PM comment seems to assume they are.
Civil actions are law suits, in court, as I understand it. Can you explain what you mean?

Mr. Zero said...

Mr. Zero, do you think university disciplinary hearings are civil actions?

No, I know they're not literally civil actions in civil court. But neither are they criminal actions, in criminal court. They are hearings conducted by a collegiate disciplinary committee.

1:42 seems to think that "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the only standard/burden that is appropriate for this kind of disciplinary hearing; in fact, he seems to think that the dude from the WSJ piece had literally been accused of a crime. I am attempting to rebut this claim.

Anonymous said...

1:42 seems to think that "beyond a reasonable doubt" is the only standard/burden that is appropriate for this kind of disciplinary hearing; in fact, he seems to think that the dude from the WSJ piece had literally been accused of a crime. I am attempting to rebut this claim.

Except that I didn't say that, did I?

Certainly proof beyond reasonable doubt suffices to implement "presumed innocent until proven guilty". And certainly, by my lights, "preponderance of evidence" does not.

And I did NOT say that the dude in the WSJ piece was accused of an actual crime. I said his situation, and that of others accused of sexual assault, was ANALOGOUS to that of someone accused of a crime, among other things because of the extraordinary penalties exacted on someone who is found to have engaged in sexual assault.

On a related point, there is an irony of course in feminist claims that, on the one hand, it's OK for universities to find someone guilty of sexual assault on relatively flimsy grounds because the penalties aren't any big deal, just as in many civil matters, when, on the other hand, it is of course feminists themselves who are pressing as hard as they can to punish such people when "convicted" so that their lives are utterly ruined and they become essentially unemployable.

Anonymous said...

I tried to post this yesterday, but this is a link to a discussion by a lawyer that points out all the holes in the wsj editorial, including that neither accuser nor accused are even allowed attorneys. Which of course is why the editorial doesn't claim why her son was lucky that she is an attorney. Like so many of the other criticisms of the "feminist political ideology" there is more obfuscation than clarity.

https://cjcdave.wordpress.com/tag/judith-grossman/

Anonymous said...

Debate continued.

Even if it's true that only 10% of accusations of rape are false (a claim in any case subject to much skepticism, given the kinds of methodologies that must be employed to come up with that or any other number) one must bear in mind the context of such accusations.

These are accusations to the police. Those accusations are not generally going to be made unless the accuser feels that the sexual assault is unambiguous enough that it will hold up. Moreover, most accusers know that they too can be subject to criminal charges if they are found to be making it up. And the very fact that the bar is high for proving rape, because of "reasonable doubt", will greatly discourage a false accusation of rape when there is nothing to back it up. Moreover, it is certainly true that even most women who would think about making up an accusation of rape would hesitate to do so if the consequence for the accused would be years in prison. Rather few women are that far gone in sociopathy, even if they might wish to indulge some kind of malevolent feeling they harbor toward the accused. As I said earlier, there are indeed many real sexual predators. But there are also borderline personalities, narcissists, and genuine sociopaths who do not find a damaging lie to be outside of their repertoire on the right occasion.

But none of these things apply in the university setting in which a professor or fellow student is accused of sexual misconduct. Everything has been made smoother for anyone who wishes to make a false accusation of sexual misconduct -- and feminists are working, even as we speak, to make it still smoother.

The point is, one would certainly expect a considerably larger number of false accusations in the university context.

As for the claim that feminists really, really want to make sure that false accusations don't occur, I wish that were true. Their only real concern seems to be that no true accusation ever be denied justice. If in consequence countless false accusations ruin the lives of innocent men, well, that's perfectly acceptable collateral damage. That is precisely why they insist on such exceedingly weak standards as "preponderance of evidence".

Mr. Zero said...

Except that I didn't say that ["beyond a reasonable doubt" is the only standard/burden that is appropriate for this kind of disciplinary hearing], did I?

Not exactly. But you strongly suggest it. For example, in the sentence following that one, you write,"Certainly proof beyond reasonable doubt suffices to implement "presumed innocent until proven guilty". And certainly, by my lights, "preponderance of evidence" does not." That makes it seem like you don't think that "preponderance of evidence" is an appropriate standard for a disciplinary hearing at a college.

But as far as I can tell, that's just something you made up. I can't see any reason why I should consider agreeing with you, let alone regard it as "certain". It's not as though respondents in civil actions are presumed liable until prepondered not liable or something. It's not as though the "preponderance" standard is a recent addition to American jurisprudence (or to proceedings modeled on it). And it's certainly not as though feminists had anything to do with it.

And I did NOT say that the dude in the WSJ piece was accused of an actual crime. I said his situation, and that of others accused of sexual assault, was ANALOGOUS to that of someone accused of a crime

Kinda, but kinda not. It's also analogous to someone who has been sued in civil court for an actionable tort. The burden of proof depends on what kind of legal action/proceeding it is, and not on the Aristotelian essence of the allegation-type.

On a related point, there is an irony of course in feminist claims that, on the one hand, it's OK for universities to find someone guilty of sexual assault on relatively flimsy grounds because the penalties aren't any big deal, just as in many civil matters...

Who do you have saying that?

Anonymous said...

This is anonymous at 12:50

Actually my name is Patrick Mayer. I can't get comments through under that name (I suspect because I asked the Smoker to not post an intemperate comment I posted without thinking, followed by perhaps some confusion as to whether I ever wanted to post here again).

I think I am the one who is in mind here:
"On a related point, there is an irony of course in feminist claims that, on the one hand, it's OK for universities to find someone guilty of sexual assault on relatively flimsy grounds because the penalties aren't any big deal, just as in many civil matters..."

But I will point out that all I say is that the penalties in university hearings are much less significant than those in criminal trials, and more significant than the penalties involved in belief formation (if any).

I want to say something else. I would argue against hiring someone guilty of the kind of thing McGinn did. This isn't much of a cost. I teach at a school that most people would not apply to. But even were I to find myself in an attractive place to work I would still vote against them. Now this might seem to the critic of feminists like some kind of hypocrisy. On the one hand I say we don't need to achieve the level of confidence in our judgments necessary at a criminal proceeding because the costs aren't that high, and on the other hand I endorse raising the costs.

Well for one thing losing out on a career in philosophy is not comparable to the kind of criminal penalties that make 'innocent until proven guilty' and 'proof beyond a reasonable doubt' appropriate standards. For another, in choosing not to hire these people I would simply be choosing to not spend my work time around someone I have some reason to think I wouldn't get along with. This would be irresponsible perhaps if the person against whom I was discriminating was clearly the most qualified candidate. But we are not in that situation (especially not in the case of McGinn himself whose work I always thought unimpressive and who had fallen into a rut of professional hackery before any of the harassment stuff came out). Any job search that is not subject to terrible luck in choosing people to interview is going to be a job search in which you are left with ties. As a tie breaker, I see no reason not to employ a rule that says 'If X is more likely to cause discord in the department than Y, choose Y'.

I will also point out that if the poll up on Leiter is even close to representative, feminists don't have much power in the discipline, and cannot actually end anyone's career.

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