Letter #1, sent on 9-25-14:
We are writing in our role as PGR advisory board members. Many of us have been urged in recent days to resign from the PGR board because of concerns about your conflicts with other philosophers. So far we have resisted those calls, because we think the PGR plays a valuable role in the profession, but we take the issue seriously.
We all value the extraordinary service you have provided with the PGR. At the same time, we are worried that the enterprise is about to be damaged irreversibly. We see that you have floated the idea that you might not run the next PGR, and that this idea appears to have widespread support. We think that there is a way to proceed without the PGR ceasing entirely.
Our suggestion is that you turn over the PGR over to new management. Specifically, you could turn over the report to a committee (e.g. of board members), perhaps rotating, who would administer the report henceforth. You have said that running the PGR is a headache, and the PGR has become a central enough institution in the profession that it does not really make sense for it to be identified wholly with one person. We think that for a majority of the profession, continuing the PGR under new management would be an option preferable both to the PGR continuing as is and to its ceasing entirely.
This is our advice, respectfully submitted as members of the PGR advisory board.
[Names of 30 PGR board members. Names are omitted as not all board members have agreed to their names being made public.]Letter #2, sent on 10-1-14
You had said that on Oct 1st you might want to have a more extended discussion. So we want to update you on where things stand.
Our original letter, which you have seen, was signed by 30 out of 54 members of the advisory board.
In the interim we have had some discussion among board members of the various options. The consensus of the board members we have talked to is that we should request that you either step down from the leadership now and relinquish control of the PGR, or at least that you make a commitment to doing so by a specific date in the near future (with the consensus being that something like January 2015 would be the latest appropriate date, though the details could be discussed).
At this point, 30 board members have endorsed this request. [N.B. The specific request above is what they endorsed; what follows is our own informal discussion.]
It is clear that the majority of the board thinks that the only solution is for you to step down. Of course we recognize that the PGR as it stands is under your control and the decision is yours. But we do urge that you follow the request of the board.
The central point is that this controversy, whatever its merits, will seriously undermine our ability as a group to produce a legitmate ranking. Over 500 people have already signed a statement committing them to boycotting the PGR if you are in control. Many others who have not signed the statement are waiting to see what happens. We think that any ranking produced in this circumstance will be seriously compromised, and that the authority of the PGR will be undermined.
The board's request specifies that you step down from the leadership and relinquish control of the PGR, meaning there should be a leader or group of leaders without your playing a direct or an indirect controlling role (an advisory role would be fine). Ideally this leader or group of leaders should be appointed by the board, and the board rather than any individual should retain ultimate control of the PGR.
There are various ways in which this might occur. In a previous email we suggested the following options:
(a) You step down from the leadership now.
(b) We postpone the survey until 2015 while you (publicly or privately) commit to stepping down before the survey.
(c) You remain on as co-editor for a 2014 survey and publicly commit to stepping down as soon as the survey is completed.
Our view is that (a) would be best, (b) second best, and (c) third best. Some board members have said to us that they would find (c) unacceptable. It is clear that many philosophers (including some board members) would still boycott the PGR under this circumstance, and that serious damage would be done, though less damage than would occur without the public commitment. Still, many board members say that (c) would be acceptable.
We are not conveying any of this publicly at this point. We want to leave room for you to frame your decision in the way that you prefer. It may well be that you were planning to take one of these options in any case. We think that on all of these options you would secure your legacy to the profession as the creator of a thriving PGR, and as someone who has continually acted in the best interest of students of philosophy around the world.
Yours in friendship and respect,
David ChalmersLeiter's response, as reported earlier in the same post, is as follows:
I indicated that two of the options mentioned in the letter, both involving my immediate departure from the PGR, were unacceptable: I have already invested hundreds of hours in correcting and updating the spread sheet with more than 550 evaluators, as well as the spread sheet containing more than one hundred faculty listings. Any report based on that work is a report I have at least co-edited.
I have also informed the Board that I am still considering the third proposal, namely, proceeding with the 2014 PGR (with Brit Brogaard as co-editor) while simultaenously [sic] committing to turn over any future PGR to others. I am also considering two other possibilities: (4) proceeding with the 2014 PGR (again, obviously, with Brit as co-editor) and postponing any decisions about the future of the PGR until after the 2014 PGR and after the current controversy; or (5) simply discontinuing the PGR altogether.A number of things about this exchange stand out.
- It is truly remarkable that a majority of the PGR Advisory Board think that the PGR is weaker with Leiter's continued involvement than it is without.
- If the first letter was sent on September 25th, then Stanley et al. must have begun work on it as soon as the September Statement went live on the 24th, if not before.
- Which, just to be explicit, means that they also sent that first letter before most of the over 600 additional people signed the Statement.
- Leiter's response is not responsive. The reasoning is a total non sequitur. The letters are about his future involvement in the PGR, not whether he is to receive credit for work he has already performed. His receiving a co-editor credit is obviously compatible with his turning over the report to new management effective immediately.
- Leiter seems to think this is going to blow over--at least, that's what his idea to make a decision "after the current controversy" would seem to indicate. So that means that if this is important to you, it is important to make sure that this doesn't blow over.
- I'm not so sure it's going to blow over, anyway. As it stands, well over 600 people have signed the September Statement, and that number continues to grow. That's not a "tempest in a teapot." That's an extraordinary number of people taking a public stand. I think it's unprecedented--I can't think of a time when anything like this happened. Add to that a majority of the advisory board signing a letter urging him to step down. The profession is taking a stand against him, and his own advisory board has joined it. I'm not sure I see how you come back from that.
- A number of comments have been left on various blogs expressing skepticism about the purity of the motive behind, or maybe the good faith of, this campaign. After all, Leiter has been like this for years, and nobody said a word until he attacked someone who was popular and well-connected.
- I don't think that's really true, though. It seems to me that people have been critical of Leiter's pugilistic and pugnacious persona for years. And this is the third time this year in which there's been a public outcry against some unnecessarily abusive thing he's done:
- First, there was the thing in comments in Feminist Philosophers where he got into arguments with Matt Drabek, Rachel McKinnon, and the anonymous graduate student whom he advised to leave academia. This caused people to wish aloud for a philosophy news blog other than his, which led pretty much directly to the establishment of Daily Nous. (If I recall correctly--didn't look it up. Do I recall correctly?)
- Second, there was the thing where Leiter strongly objected, in unnecessarily personal terms, to an attempt by Carolyn Dicey Jennings to study the correlation between PGR rank and tenure-track placement rate; again, there was a fairly significant public outcry, of which Jenkins's blog post was part.
- Third, there's this. While the reaction this time is stronger than it has been in the past, it does not seem to me to come out of left field. It seems to me to be a clear pattern of increasingly vociferous responses to his unnecessarily abusive behavior.
- And the note he sent to Jenkins, in particular, is over-the-top nasty and completely unprovoked in a way that much of his earlier, more public material, was not.
- It seems to me that Leiter has yet to make a sincere apology or acknowledge that these behaviors crossed a line.
- I see why he'd want to finish the current/upcoming edition of the PGR before handing the reins to new management. A transition like that is probably a lot of work, and it'll take time to get the new editor/editors up to speed. Making a transition in leadership like that while simultaneously producing an edition of the Report would be hard, especially if it wasn't planned in advance. So I think it makes sense for him to want to finish the 2014 edition before making any big changes.
- If he were to discontinue the PGR altogether, there would be no reason why the Advisory Board couldn't immediately undiscontinue it, and reconstitute it with the kind of editorial/organizational structure mentioned in letter #2.
- It'll be interesting to see how the Advisory Board will reply to Leiter's response.