Prof. Kirk Sanders, the Chair of the Department, writes, "The Department of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign today (August 28) approved the following resolution:
Whereas the recent words and actions of Chancellor Phyllis Wise, President Robert Easter, and the Board of Trustees in connection with the revocation of an offer of employment to Dr. Steven Salaita betray a culpable disregard not only for academic freedom and free speech generally but also for the principles of shared governance and established protocols for hiring, tenure, and promotion, the faculty of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign declares its lack of confidence in the leadership of the current Chancellor, President, and Board of Trustees.
Needless to say, they are right to lack confidence, and I join, I am sure, many other philosophers in commending them for taking this public stand.
A humanities faculty member at Illinois writes with some reasonable questions:
First: Under what conditions would the academic boycott of UIUC be ended?
I support the boycott -- or probably more accurately, I support the goals of those who are boycotting. I was worried before now because I thought and continue to think that there is zero chance the boycott will actually work. Now that it appears that the boycott has not worked -- at least, not to restore Salaita's job or to protect academic freedom -- what is the current endgame? Will the boycott be lifted if and when Salaita settles with the university? Or if and when Wise is removed from her position? Or if and when the Trustees are replaced? Or what?
Second: Does the academic boycott extend to job talks?
I suspect (hope?) that the university's actions have seriously hurt its chances of making senior hires in the foreseeable future. But would anyone coming to Illinois to give a job talk be seen as crossing the boycott lines? Will the boycott be seen as applying differently to junior and senior people? In not too long, I expect our department to post new job advertisements. How will the wider community view them?
Historian David Prochaska at UIUC invited me, with Professor Davis's permission, to share her letter to the Chancellor. Prof. Prochaska noted that, "Natalie Zemon Davis is one of the most distinguished historians at work today. Past president of the American Historical Association, she is the author of 10 books, including The Return of Martin Guerre (translated into 22 languages). She is the recipient of the Holberg International Memorial Prize (2010), National Humanities Medal (2012), and has been named Companion of the Order of Canada (2012)." Her letter follows:
26 August 2014
Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise
University of Illinois
Dear Chancellor Wise,
As a long-time participant in the university world, I implore you to reverse your decision in regard to Professor Steven Salaita and now to recommend the approval of his appointment to the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I write you as an admirer of the remarkable achievements of the historians, literary scholars, and anthropologists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I have seen the lively and creative exchange among professors and graduate students close up as an invited guest of the History Department, and cannot believe that you would want to jeopardize this learning experience by the inappropriate and misguided criterion of civility.
I write further as a Jew, growing up in Detroit during the rise of Nazism and the anti-Semitic sermons of Father Coughlin; a Jew committed to that strand in the Jewish sensibility that still places justice and universal values at its heart; committed to the uses of rabbinical and Talmudic debate, which sought truth by language not always decorous; and to the old tradition of Jewish humor, which put laughter and mockery to the service of helping the oppressed.
As a distinguished physiologist, you have surely heard “disrespectful words” among scientists as they argued the pros and cons of research. I certainly have, as I listened to scientists go at it on grant committees, including when the important subject of gender-based biology was on the table. If words thought “demeaning” were uttered, the speaker was not excluded, he or she was answered.
The role of vigorous expression is even more central in the humanities and social sciences, where we are examining thought systems and actions that range from the violently cruel to the heroically generous. What, following your Principles of August 22, would we make of the writings of the great François Rabelais, who used every comic metaphor available, especially the bodily ones, to plead the cause of those who had been silenced by the Inquisition or harmed by unjust war?
You speak of your responsibility “ to ensure that. . . differing points of view be discussed in and outside the classroom in a scholarly, civil and productive manner.” In the classroom: one of the exemplars of master teaching was the late George Mosse of the University of Wisconsin, refugee from Nazi Germany and historian of the rise of Nazism. His lectures were celebrated for his sharp affirmations and his simultaneous invitation to the students to respond in kind—which they did – and for what one observer has called the “cross-fire” between him and a Marxist colleague. Not surprisingly, he had good friends among both Israelis and Palestinians.
Outside the classroom? But surely one knows that “differing points of view” are being discussed by members of your large faculty all the time, using every kind of speech, some of it uncivil and disrespectful. How would one enforce your criteria at the University? By “speech-police” in every classroom, college restaurant, sports arena, and living room?
Since this cannot be your intention, I come to the case of Stephen Salaita, whose scholarship, publications, and teaching were reviewed and warmly approved by colleagues, specialists, and university executive committees. You say in your statement of Principles that the “the decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel.” If this be truly the case, then what could lead you to overturn the well-established evaluation and appointment procedures of your university and (according to the commentary by legal specialists) even hazard a possible lawsuit?
Professor Salaita’s tweets in regard to the Israeli bombing of Gaza in the last months seem to have been the trigger: as reported in information obtained by Inside Ed, they prompted some seventy emails to you, including from students who, as Jews, said they feared he would be hostile to them if they happened to take his course. (What their majors were was not specified in the report.)
Indeed, some of Professor Salaita’s tweets were vehement and intentionally provocative: he used strong language both to criticize the deaths from Israeli bombing and to attack anti-Semitism. The lack of “civility” in some of his tweets is linked to the genre itself: a tweet is often an answer to a tweet, and a tweet always anticipates a response. It is a form of concise communication based on give and take, on the anticipation that the respondent may respond sharply or critically to what you have said, and that the exchange will continue. Thus, in his public political life, Professor Salaita participates in a mode that always leaves space for an answer, thus, extending the respect to the individual respondent for which you call in your Principles.
The classroom is, of course, the critical space for assessing a professor’s educational performance, and from all reports, Professor Salaita has been a very successful teacher and much appreciated by his students. Why not accept the careful and extended scholarly inquiry of your University of Illinois colleagues over the hasty and seemingly politicized judgment and fears of the emailers? Further, Professor Salaita would be joining the Department of American Indian and Indigenous Studies, which on its web site commits itself to “free academic inquiry” and “the best ideals of academic freedom.” Why not leave it to the professors in this fine department to insure that a new colleague fulfills the highest goals of teaching? Indeed, the practices of careful listening and full speaking are very much part of the American indigenous tradition. Professor Salaita would thus be in a setting where he could expect to do his best teaching and make the significant contribution to scholarly inquiry hoped for by the University of Illinois professors who have been seeking his presence.
I urge you, Chancellor Wise, to rethink your position and to recommend that the Board of Trustees give its approval to the appointment of Professor Salaita. This would be an honorable course, and one that would restore the academic values which should and can prevail at a great university.
Natalie Zemon Davis,
Henry Charles Lea Professor of History emeritus, Princeton University
Adjunct Professor of History, University of Toronto
Corresponding with philosophy friends and colleagues on Facebook and via e-mail alerts me to the fact that there were certain implicit assumptions in my Huffington Post piece that would benefit from some more explicit discussion. (HuffPo generally does not want pieces to be longer than 1,000 words.) So this will be an explanation of American law (to the best of my not-always expert knowledge) as it bears on the Salaita case and related matters, with a couple of links to cases and some pieces by academics more expert on some of these matters.
1. It is crucial in the Salaita case that it involves a state or public university, namely, the University of Illinois. Public universities are government actors, and like all government actors they are subject to the limitations imposed by the U.S. Constitution, including the First Amendment, which protects freedom of speech. (Technical point: the First Amendment, by its text, applies only to the federal government; in the wake of the Civil War, the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution, which imposed equal protection of the law requirements on the states; the Supreme Court subsequently interpreted the Fourteenth Amendment to incorporate the First Amendment, among others, as applying to the states as well.) One of the basics of the American law of free speech is that the government can almost never suppress or punish speech because of its content or viewpoint. (There are some very narrow exceptions: child pornography, speech that poses an imminent risk of harm [e.g., a fight or violence], and a couple of others.) Speech on matters of public or political concern is almost always protected by the First Amendment. But private universities are not bound by the First Amendment: if the University of Chicago had treated Salaita the way the University of Illinois did, he would have no constitutional claim. (This would not happen here because the Board of Trustees does not approve faculty appointments--the final decision is made by the Provost, and once s/he signs off, it is a done deal.) Against a private university, Salaita would have other claims, about which more in #5 below.
2. One important aspect of the First Amendment protection for the content of one's expression is that government can not (generally) base a hiring decision on the speaker's viewpoint or the political content of his expression. (There is a clear exception for certain kinds of political appointees--e.g., President Obama can take into account the viewpoint of those he appoints to Cabinet positions. And there are institution-specific exceptions, such as in the military. In #3, below, I take up the main limitation on this principle possibly relevant to the Salaita case.) Wagner v. Jones, a case out of Iowa that is still percolating through the legal system, offers a good illustration. Wagner, a pro-life conservative, claims she was passed over for a job teaching legal research and writing at the University of Iowa because of her political views. The district (or trial) court initially granted Iowa's motion to dismiss, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit correctly reversed in the opinion linked above. Section II(A) of the opinion contains a useful discussion of precisely the doctrines that will be at issue for Salaita's constitutional claims against the University of Illinois:
You will notice that the invocation of "academic freedom" here concerns the freedom of the academic institution to choose how to make faculty hiring decisions, subject to the limitation of not relying "on a prohibited factor," such as the political speech or viewpoint of the candidate. (Other prohibited factors would include the race of the candidate, the gender of the candidate, and so on.) I will return to this in #4, below.
Wagner's case clearly presented a factual question for a jury, which is why the district court was wrong to dismiss it without a trial (as the 8th Circuit decided). The factual question is: was her political viewpoint a factor in the University of Iowa's decision not to hire her. The difficulty for Wagner is that she has some evidence to this effect, but no "smoking gun." The decision not to hire her was taken at the departmental level, i.e., the Law School. There is some evidence of hostility to her political views, but it consists mainly in the comments of one faculty member. Salaita has considerably more evidence that it was his political expression that was the overriding factor in the decision not to hire him: the departmental unit (the American Indian Studies Program) voted to hire him; the Dean approved the hire and extended the offer; the University scheduled his fall classes; and so on. But then in July of this year his tweets about Israel became an object of criticism on right-wing websites, and then alumni and others began lobbying the University precisely because they objected to his political point of view. This seems utterly obvious, so how could a court find otherwise?
3. Chancellor Wise's and Chairman Kennedy's statements last Friday were appalling, and they contain material that no lawyer not asleep on the job could have approved (such as Kennedy's bizarre claims about disrespectful and demeaning speech not being tolerated "in our democracy," contrary to the famous "Fuck the draft" case). But in one respect, there was clearly legal counsel at work: the statements are meant to convey the message that Salaita was not denied hiring because of his political viewpoint, but because of the manner in which he expressed himself. This is clearest in Chancellor Wise's statement:
The decision regarding Prof. Salaita was not influenced in any way by his positions on the conflict in the Middle East nor his criticism of Israel. Our university is home to a wide diversity of opinions on issues of politics and foreign policy. Some of our faculty are critical of Israel, while others are strong supporters. These debates make us stronger as an institution and force advocates of all viewpoints to confront the arguments and perspectives offered by others. We are a university built on precisely this type of dialogue, discourse and debate.
What we cannot and will not tolerate at the University of Illinois are personal and disrespectful words or actions that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them.
Here the Chancellor disavows (however implausibly) that they are punishing Salaita for his viewpoint, but rather are only responding to the unacceptable manner in which he expressed that viewpoint. As, once again, the Court's famous "Fuck the draft" case suggests, this is going to be a hard distinction to sustain--especially since, as I suspect, the University will be hard-pressed to identify all the other cases where the Chancellor and the Board of Trustees stepped in to reverse hiring decisions because the candidates violated the articulated standard of "disrespectful words...that demean and abuse either viewpoints themselves or those who express them."
Enter nowPickering, another case, oddly enough, from Illinois decided by the U.S. Supreme Court almost a half-century ago (though one involving firing and not refusal to hire, though I do not think that distinction will matter). In that case, a local school board fired a teacher who wrote a letter to the local newspaper criticizing the board's management of district finances; the letter, it turned out, contained some factual inaccuracies as well. The U.S. Supreme Court sided with the teacher and against the board. In the crucial paragraph of the opinion, the Court stated:
To the extent that the Illinois Supreme Court's opinion may be read to suggest that teachers may constitutionally be compelled to relinquish the First Amendment rights they would otherwise enjoy as citizens to comment on matters of public interest in connection with the operation of the public schools in which they work, it proceeds on a premise that has been unequivocally rejected in numerous prior decisions of this Court. E. g., Wieman v. Updegraff, 344 U.S. 183 (1952); Shelton v. Tucker, 364 U.S. 479 (1960); Keyishian v. Board of Regents, 385 U.S. 589 (1967). "[T]he theory that public employment which may be denied altogether may be subjected to any conditions, regardless of how unreasonable, has been uniformly rejected." Keyishian v. Board of Regents, supra, at 605-606. At the same time it cannot be gainsaid that the State has interests as an employer in regulating the speech of its employees that differ significantly from those it possesses in connection with regulation of the speech of the citizenry in general. The problem in any case is to arrive at a balance between the interests of the teacher, as a citizen, in commenting upon matters of public concern and the interest of the State, as an employer, in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees.
It's that last sentence, the so-called "Pickering balancing test", on which the University of Illinois will have to rely. Note that in Pickering, the Court did not find that any of the school's interests "in promoting the efficiency of the public services it performs through its employees" were really affected by the letter, even allowing that some of the statements in the letter were inaccurate. But it's precisely the Pickering balancing test that a state university can invoke if it disciplines a teacher who demeans and disrespects his students in the classroom (or if the teacher harasses, sexually or otherwise, the students). And it was the Pickering test, as elaborated by later court opinions, that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit relied on in deciding that City College could remove Leonard Jeffries from his administrative position (but not his tenured post) in the wake of a controversal speech. The 2nd Circuit gives a crisp statement of the later standard:
Whittled to its core, Waters [the later case refining the Pickering standard] permits a government employer to fire an employee for speaking on a matter of public concern if: (1) the employer's prediction of disruption is reasonable; (2) the potential disruptiveness is enough to outweigh the value of the speech; and (3) the employer took action against the employee based on this disruption and not in retaliation for the speech.
That paragraph gives you the essence of what the University's constitutional strategy will be in the Salaita case. The University will argue that the refusal to hire was based on a reasonable prediction that Salaita's vitriolic attacks on Israel and Zionists would disrupt the educational mission of the university, and that it was this concern that motivated their revocation of the job offer.
In my view, this argument is absurd: only if it is reasonable to think that Salaita's tweeting predicts his conduct in the classroom and with his colleagues will the argument stand any chance (and even then a court should conclude that the clear value of Salaita's core political speech on matters of public concern outweights the speculative worry). Yet presumably the university, in making the initial offer, already had substantial information on both these points (his teaching and collegiality), so that it would not be reasonable to conclude from his tweets that he would disrupt the university's operations, even though his many years of prior academic service provided no evidence to that effect. But--and this is what should, rightly, worry every professor in the United States--social media and academia is new territory for the courts, and I can not guarantee that some court might not side with the university. And if a court does, the message will be clear: all faculty, especially those at state universities and especially those looking to take a job elsewhere, should abandon social media, or make sure they "watch their mouth" really carefully before posting on a blog or a public Facebook account or tweeting.
September is almost here, and there is still one 3rd from the top spot available, as well as both 4th from the top spots. October is already sold out (all four spots on both sides), but November still has one 4th from the top spot left. December has at least one 2nd spot, as well as lower spots, available. The next open top spot is in January 2015 (there is one available).
The odd thing about this article is that neither of the two cases mentioned (David Barnett and Dan Kaufman) involve allegations of sexual harassment: Barnett was alleged to have retaliated against a student who complained about a graduate student, whereas Kaufman was the victim of gross wrongdoing by the university in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, oddly, the article says nothing about a third case in the Philosophy Department, which may turn out to involve sexual harassment (or may not).
The program starts 7 pm Central time, but the segment about Illinois will begin about 7:25 pm. ("Chicago Tonight" is a program of the local PBS affiliate in Chicago.) The HuffPo column picked up 5,400 "likes" and made it to the front page of HuffPo. Glenn Greenwald kindly tweeted it out to his 400,000 "followers." Thanks to all who helped give these issues the publicity they warrant.
I've talked to some law colleagues today about the legal issues and what the university can possibly be thinking; I'll write more about that tomorrow.
UPDATE: Here's the video, for those interested. Illinois declined to send someone to respond to me (not surprising, the public statements by the Chancellor and Board Chairman have already damaged their litigation position)), so the interviewer, quite fairly, tried to raise the issues a proponent of the university's view might have.
The communications show that Wise was lobbied on the decision not only by pro-Israel students, parents and alumni, but also by the fund-raising arm of the university. The communications also show that the university system president was involved, and that the university was considering the legal ramifications of the case before the action to block the appointment.
Most of the emails have the names of the senders redacted and some are nearly identical, suggesting the use of talking points or shared drafts. Many of the letter writers identify themselves as Jewish and/or sympathetic to Israel, as students, parents or alumni, and as people who say that the tone of Salaita's comments (especially on Twitter) makes them believe he would be hostile to them and to their views....
Seventy people wrote to Wise to urge her to block Salaita's appointment (it is possible that some of the email messages are duplicates from the same person -- the redactions make it impossible to tell)....
While many of the emails are fairly similar, some stand out. For instance, there is an email from Travis Smith, senior director of development for the University of Illinois Foundation, to Wise, with copies to Molly Tracy, who is in charge of fund-raising for engineering programs, and Dan C. Peterson, vice chancellor for institutional advancement. The email forwards a letter complaining about the Salaita hire. The email from Smith says: "Dan, Molly, and I have just discussed this and believe you need to [redacted]." (The blacked out portion suggests a phrase is missing, not just a word or two.)
Later emails show Wise and her development team trying to set up a time to discuss the matter, although there is no indication of what was decided.
At least one email the chancellor received was from someone who identified himself as a major donor who said that he would stop giving if Salaita were hired. "Having been a multiple 6 figure donor to Illinois over the years I know our support is ending as we vehemently disagree with the approach this individual espouses. This is doubly unfortunate for the school as we have been blessed in our careers and have accumulated quite a balance sheet over my 35 year career," the email says.
I have not looked at the Illinois FOIA, but I'm surprised the names are redacted. These people deserve to be exposed in public.
Here. It takes a very different tact than I took, obviously, but I am strongly in favor of whatever rhetorical approach works to get the decision-makers to rectify the wrongs they have committed! In any case, I commend it to the attention of readers following this case.
The University's conduct is so clearly illegal that I really did not see these egregious statements from the Chancellor and the Board coming. That the Chancellor of a major research university in what is a politically moderate (even liberal at times) state would affirm in public that faculty at state universities have no right to make comments that are uncivil or demeaning, even though they manifestly do under the First Amendment and, arguably, as a matter of academic freedom is truly unbelievable. My supposition, naively, had been that some adult in the university's counsel office would have explained to the miscreants or incompetents the probable legal consequences; but either there are no adults in the counsel office or they were ignored.
The question now is what to do that might make a constructive difference: I welcome suggestions from Illinois faculty and others.
MOVING TO FRONT--I CALL READER ATTENTION, IN PARTICULAR, TO THE COMMENTS BY JOHN GARDNER, AND INVITE FURTHER DISCUSSION
The earlier thread generated some interesting, substantive discussion. I'll highlight three comments that made what I thought were noteworthy points.
From Christian Munthe:
What Hilde points out is not that evidence has been discounted by anyone. What she is quoted to say is that while one administration may judge that a body of evidence does not warrant formal charges of harrassment against a person, another administration may be warranted as using the very same body as a reason not to hire this person. Her expressed disagreement is obviously meant to convey the message that, were she a decision-maker in the second type of administration-case, given the boddy of evidence at hand in the present case, she would evaluate the evidence in exactly this way, and that she also thinks that the academic professors handling this case should have assessed the matter likewise. Nothing strange here.
From commenter X (a student):
Isn’t this effectively saying McGinn should never be permitted to teach again. Given the school in question is not a graduate program, the position is pretty clearly a major step-down from his previous post, and the term of the contract is a single year, that’s what it looks like. Considering he wasn’t actually found to have committed sexual harassment (whether we disagree with the finding or not), this is a pretty draconian punishment for an allegation and very public breakdown. So on top of a major blow to his reputation, he appears to have been barred from his vocation of 30 + years without much due process. I don’t know all the circumstances of the case, but I’ve heard suggestions there is much worse conduct a foot in many departments. Conversely the punishment seems pretty maximal - short of criminal charges what more could be done? While I appreciate people what to take a stand against powerful men, this seems a bit draconian.
And from a tenure-track philosopher:
In light of Lindemann's comments and the above discussion, I have one question and one longer comment:
1. The principle behind Lindemann's comments seems to be the following: University administrations have the ability and the duty to override faculty appointments, even when there is no legal impediment per se to the appointment. Doesn't this same line of reasoning apply to the Salaita case?
2. I am worried that the profession's admirable desire to remedy the problem of sexism and harassment has led to a naive reliance on administrative oversight and intervention that, in the end, will only further erode what autonomy faculty as a whole still possess. Lindemann's comments show that she cares more about keeping McGinn out of the academy than she does about the faculty's right to determine who will join its ranks. It is possible to express regret that the ECU faculty decided to make McGinn an offer of employment without defending--valorizing even--the procedurally dubious intervention of the administration to override such appointments. Lindemann does not do this.
Meanwhile, over at the Feminist Philosophers blog, philosopher Louise Antony (U Mass/Amherst) responds to the earlier discussion of Prof. Lindemann's comments from CHE pertaining to the East Carolina decision with the following:
In light of the discussion on Brian Leiter’s blog, I want to say something in support of Hilde Lindemann’s comments in the recent Chronicle of Higher Education article on the East Carolina U/Colin McGinn incident. Many commenters are incensed that Prof. Lindemann seemed to endorse the use of “unofficial information” (as Daily Nous put it) in decisions such as the ECU Phil. Department’s vote to offer a distinguished visiting position to Colin McGinn. I’m baffled by this. Is there anyone out there in Bloggo-land who wants to say that scholarly achievement is the only consideration that should count in deciding whether or not to offer someone a position? (Anyone who says that it is the only thing that counts is simply wrong.) Every department I’ve ever been affiliated with has always – and quite rightly — taken into account both the candidate’s likely collegiality and his or her potential as a teacher and mentor. So now the question is: what kind of evidence can one use in assessing a candidate’s collegiality and potential as a teacher and mentor? Postings on a public blog can provide evidence. Disciplinary actions taken by a candidate’s previous employer can also provide evidence. What about the appropriate standard? Bearing in mind that a hiring meeting is not a criminal trial, that there is no “presumption of innocence” to be overcome, and that an individual’s being brought up for consideration does not engender any presumptive right to the position, it’s clear that the appropriate standard is the one typically used in normal hiring deliberations: what, given the evidence, is it reasonable to believe about how this colleague will behave toward his or her colleagues and students? An official finding that a person has engaged in sexual harassment is certainly very strong evidence that that person is untrustworthy – but it’s not the only evidence that can support that conclusion. I understand that there’s tremendous concern about false accusation and innuendo – at least when the case at hand involves men and sex. So yes, the evidence needs to be looked at carefully in any particular instance. But are hiring committees supposed to ignore the evidence that exists? Are they supposed to disregard the fact of disciplinary actions taken by a previous employer? Are they supposed to ignore what the candidate has to say about the matter on a public blog? A decision not to offer a position to someone because there’s good reason to think the person is a danger to students is not a violation of anyone’s rights. A decision to go ahead and appoint such a person despite the evidence is reprehensible.
(A sidenote: the FP bloggers are, as a matter of policy, actively discouraged from linking to this blog, even when discussing content here, apparently because verboten views are sometimes expressed here. Although I sometimes disagree with content on the FP blog, I do make it a practice to link to FP when content there is being discussed. It's perhaps worth emphasizing, as readers increasingly write to me, that the FP blog represents some feminist philosophers, but it does not represent feminist philosophers tout court.)
I tend to agree with Prof. Antony about the relevant evidentiary standards in the hiring process, but as some of the commenters on the initial thread noted, that isn't quite what happened here: a hiring decision by a department (for a one-year position) was overturned by administrators, for reasons unknown. I will add that I think there should always be serious concern about "false accusation and innuendo"--even in the hiring process--and not only (as Prof. Antony says sarcastically) when it "involves men and sex."
Prof. McGinn was highly critical of much of my commentary on and coverage of his case (for example). But one can believe that he was correctly and effectively sanctioned by the University of Miami (note that the victim in that case does not agree) and still believe that that does not mean he should never be hired again to teach philosophy anywhere. What do readers think? Should loss of a job for sexual misconduct bar someone from any future academic appointment?
I am opening this for further discussion of any of the issues addressed above; as before keep it substantive, and comments must include, at a minimum, a real, identifying e-mail address, which will not appear.
...and I'm delighted that my disrespectful and demeaning speech makes me unappointable at the University of Illinois, where the First Amendment no longer applies. This commentary on her disgraceful letter is apt and I endorse everything Mr. Wilson says.
ADDENDUM: This is a tamer, but also, solid response, making clear how the Chancellor's "explanation" of her decision is even worse than the decision itself. (Thanks to Mike Dorf for the pointer.)
A lawsuit is now inevitable, and it will presumably have a defamation claim added to the constitutional and contractual claims. The Chancellor should resign: she's a disgrace. I again urge other philosophers to join the boycott. It gives me no pleasure to say that, since now the boycott has no end in sight. But the conduct by the Chancellor and the Board is such an egregious violation of the basic norms and integrity of academic institutions, that firm and public action is now imperative.
ADDENDUM: The Board of Trustees is also a disgrace--even in Texas, the Board has not done anything this egregious in a long time:
August 22, 2014
Earlier today, you received a thoughtful statement from Chancellor Phyllis Wise regarding the university’s decision not to recommend Prof. Steven Salaita for a tenured faculty position on the Urbana-Champaign campus.
In her statement, Chancellor Wise reaffirmed her commitment to academic freedom and to fostering an environment that encourages diverging opinions, robust debate and challenging conventional norms. Those principles have been at the heart of the university’s mission for nearly 150 years, and have fueled its rise as a world leader in education and innovation.
But, as she noted, our excellence is also rooted in another guiding principle that is just as fundamental. Our campuses must be safe harbors where students and faculty from all backgrounds and cultures feel valued, respected and comfortable expressing their views.
We agree, and write today to add our collective and unwavering support of Chancellor Wise and her philosophy of academic freedom and free speech tempered in respect for human rights – these are the same core values which have guided this institution since its founding.
In the end, the University of Illinois will never be measured simply by the number of world-changing engineers, thoughtful philosophers or great artists we produce. We also have a responsibility to develop productive citizens of our democracy. As a nation, we are only as strong as the next generation of participants in the public sphere. The University of Illinois must shape men and women who will contribute as citizens in a diverse and multi-cultural democracy. To succeed in this mission, we must constantly reinforce our expectation of a university community that values civility as much as scholarship.
Disrespectful and demeaning speech that promotes malice is not an acceptable form of civil argument if we wish to ensure that students, faculty and staff are comfortable in a place of scholarship and education. If we educate a generation of students to believe otherwise, we will have jeopardized the very system that so many have made such great sacrifices to defend. There can be no place for that in our democracy, and therefore, there will be no place for it in our university.
Chancellor Wise is an outstanding administrator, leader and teacher. Her academic career has been built on her commitment to promoting academic freedom and creating a welcoming environment for students and faculty alike. We stand with her today and will be with her tomorrow as she devotes her considerable talent and energy to serving our students, our faculty and staff, and our society.
We look forward to working closely with Chancellor Wise and all of you to ensure that our university is recognized both for its commitment to academic freedom and as a national model of leading-edge scholarship framed in respect and courtesy.
Christopher G. Kennedy, Chair, University of Illinois Board of Trustees
Robert A. Easter, President
Hannah Cave, Trustee Ricardo Estrada, Trustee Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Trustee Lucas N. Frye, Trustee Karen Hasara, Trustee Patricia Brown Holmes, Trustee Timothy N. Koritz, Trustee Danielle M. Leibowitz, Trustee Edward L. McMillan, Trustee James D. Montgomery, Trustee Pamela B. Strobel, Trustee
Paula Allen-Meares, Chancellor, Chicago campus, and Vice President, University of Illinois Susan J. Koch, Chancellor, Springfield campus, and Vice President, University of Illinois
Donald A. Chambers, Professor of Physiology and Biochemistry; Chair, University Senates Conference
Jerry Bauman, Interim Vice President for Health Affairs Thomas R. Bearrows, University Counsel Thomas P. Hardy, Executive Director for University Relations Susan M. Kies, Secretary of the Board of Trustees and the University Walter K. Knorr, VP/Chief Financial Officer and Comptroller Christophe Pierre, Vice President for Academic Affairs Lawrence B. Schook, Vice President for Research Lester H. McKeever, Jr., Treasurer, Board of Trustees
This is informative; it also makes clear how pro forma Board approval ordinarily is--many start teaching and collecting a paycheck before Board approval occurs. And, bear in mind, what happened here was not a failure of Board approval, but a unilateral revocation by the Chancellor, which was never a condition mentioned in the offer letter.
Classes start Monday at Illinois, so perhaps a resolution is imminent. IF not, a lawsuit certainly is.
Charles Kahn, Professor of Philosophy Emeritus at Penn, has been awarded the inaugural Werner Jaeger Award by the German Gesellschaft für antike Philosophie (GANPH). The award honors a famous and outstanding senior scholar in the field of ancient Philosophy and is named in honor of Werner Jaeger, one of the most influential figures in the study of ancient philosophy for the first half of the twentieth century.
With almost 1600 votes, the readership revealed itself (not wholly surprisingly!) to be quite friendly to the history of analytic philosophy: 17% thought it "central, foundational," 28% called it a "major area of research," and 27% deemed it "useful when integrated with issues of contemporary philosophical interest"--so nearly three-quarters chose the most favorable options. An additional 20% deemed it a minor area of research, while only 8% chose the most dismissive option.
This story from British Columbia will be of special interest to readers as it involves the wife, Gillian, of the distinguished philosopher Jonathan Bennett. Her website about her decision and her dementia is here; it is worth every reader's time. Her courage and clarity of mind in the face of decline and mortality is a story worth sharing.
Philosopher Paul Boghossian (NYU) gave me permission to post his comments in support of boycotting Illinois over the Salaita scandal:
We have an important moral issue before us. Academic freedom is endangered. A person, who had resigned his job on the promise of another one, is about to have his life ruined, on the basis of 140 character tweets. Administrators looking on are about to conclude that they can blithely overturn the recommendations of their own rigorous procedures for personal or political gain. Those who want to foster a culture of intimidation about sensitive world issues are about to conclude that their tactics are working. This is a time for clear-minded, assertive moral protest; not for fussing with a thousand little distinctions that no one cares about. We need to speak with a strong voice now and put a stop to this now. We don't want to have to deal with a multitude of similar cases in the near future. And how much of a 'punishment' on our colleagues at Illinois is it anyway? There are so many alternative ways of ensuring philosophical interaction with them, if that's what people really were worried about. And do you think anyone will mind if, in a few years, a signer were to say: Given this or that development, I have decided to abandon my boycott of UIUC? Time to get real, here.
Prof. Boghossian's comments, together with several instructive comments on the earlier thread (including from Illinois faculty), persuade me to revise my original stance. I will join the boycott until such time as the University of Illinois makes things right. I encourage other philosophers to do the same.
Philosopher Sally Haslanger (MIT) writes: "It is crucial to the success of the journal that it represent research done by the many different intellectual constituencies of the APA."
That seems to me the primary danger for the journal, not what is crucial to its success. Only if one thought every intellectual constituency within the APA produced good philosophical work could this possibly be a desideratum: but does anyone really believe that? (One need only look at the MIT faculty to see that no one there does.) As I wrote previously in refereeing the JAPA proposal for another press:
I am skeptical whether the APA is well-positioned to produce the high quality journal it envisions, the one that combines “diversity” with “quality.” The APA’s “pluralistic consitutencies” (as the proposal calls them) are potentially a source of significant difficulty for this project, not an asset. The worry is that the APA is supposed to represent everyone in the philosophy profession, regardless of the quality of their work or approach. When the proposal describes Continental Philosophy Review, for example, as a “top field" journal,” it is quite clear that it is pandering to interest groups within the APA, not philosophical standards of excellence. (Some good work occasionally appears in CPR, but the idea that the best work in Continental philosophy appears there is ludicrous and indefensible; the use of this example suggests the process has already been ‘captured’ in part by those with other agendas.)
We have seen this pattern repeatedly within the APA. The Eastern Division represents the extreme of this phenomenon, with the result that many philosophers no longer participate there because for the sake of alleged “inclusiveness” and “diversity”—meaning neither racial nor ethnic diversity, nor even philosophical diversity, but simply pandering to organized interest groups—the program is no longer very good. As I understand it, The Journal of Philosophy stopped publishing papers from the Eastern because of this problem many years ago. The Central and Pacific have avoided the fate of the Eastern, which gives some reason for hope if they take the lead on the JAPA project. But surely the prospect of an APA-approved journal will bring out “special interest” lobbying in its worst forms. I see no reason to be optimistic that the contemplated journal will not simply be captured by certain groups looking to leverage their position in the field by capturing editorial control of portions of the journal, without regard to quality.
The initial choice of editor and editorial board gives us some reason to be more hopeful. But what will actually be crucial to the success of JAPA is that it publish high quality work, not that it represents every "constituency". I certainly share Prof. Haslanger's hope that JAPA publishes high quality work in many areas, including work on the post-Kantian Continental traditions in philosophy, as well as the other areas Prof. Haslanger mentions.
UPDATE: Comments were closed at the FP blog, based on a concern that the comments could get "ugly." To be clear, the "ugly" comment that prompted this decision was a content-free ageist and gendered smear of me. The author of that unfortunate comment had the courtesy, however, to e-mail me a retraction and apology for it.
ANOTHER: In the bowels of cyberspace, philosopher Eric Schliesser (Ghent) has earned the amusing nickname "the Ghent Balloon," in recognition of the amazing amounts of hot air he can generate on any topic, no matter how trivial. Since he is a serious scholar and philosopher, my own suspicion is that he really doesn't believe a lot of the stuff he blogs, and that he does it mainly to garner attention or to satisfy his apparently enormouos appetite for righteous posturing. Whatever the explanation, his latest balloon ride warrants a couple of observations. First, regarding its juvenile title, there was no "dust-up": Prof. Haslanger made a claim, and I disgreed with it for the reasons given. I often agree with Prof. Haslanger on issues in the profession, but I did not agree with her about this. That is not a "dust-up," but Prof. Schliesser apparently would like to make it one. Second, if Schliesser does not believe that meaningful qualitative judgments are possible, and that all we can do is meet the demands of each "constituency," then he should cut through the hot air with a bracing burst of icey directness and say so clearly. Third, his feigned uncertainty about this line from my original comments--"Only if one thought every intellectual constituency within the APA produced good philosophical work could [representing them all] possibly be a desideratum: but does anyone really believe that? (One need only look at the MIT faculty to see that no one there does.)"--is a bit incredible, even allowing for his rhetorical tendencies. If anyone at MIT believed that all the intellectual constituencies in the APA produce high quality philosophical work, then MIT would have--maybe just once in the last 25 years, say--hired a philosopher trained at a SPEP department, or a philosopher affiliated with the Society for American Philosophers. In fact, MIT hires (even when they hire Continental and feminist philosophers) only from a small handful of departments, about a half-dozen (Princeton, Berkeley, MIT, Oxford, two or three others on occasion). I conclude that no one there believes that all the intellectual constituencies in the APA produce high quality philosophical work. I also think that is the only reasonable view to hold, and I would be astonished if it were not Eric Schliesser's view, posturing to one side.
MORE HOT AIR, alas, but a nice photo (I infer) of Ghent as seen from the air! Most amusing line: Schliesser's brave (and wholly irrelevant) declaration: "I refuse to defer to [MIT's] hiring patterns as final authority in matters of qualitative judgment." No one suggested anyone do that; I certainly wouldn't.
I refuse to defer to its hiring patterns as final authority in matters of qualitative judgment. - See more at: http://digressionsnimpressions.typepad.com/digressionsimpressions/2014/08/the-view-from-up-here.html#more
I refuse to defer to its hiring patterns as final authority in matters of qualitative judgment. - See more at: http://digressionsnimpressions.typepad.com/digressionsimpressions/2014/08/the-view-from-up-here.html#more
I refuse to defer to its hiring patterns as final authority in matters of qualitative judgment. - See more at: http://digressionsnimpressions.typepad.com/digressionsimpressions/2014/08/the-view-from-up-here.html#more
Joshua Smart, a PhD student at the University of Missouri, invited me to share with readers this interesting new service he created:
While advisors and committees are important, it can be incredibly helpful to discuss one’s work with peers in a lower-stakes environment, and it can be particularly enlightening to do so with those who take a different approach or have a different focus. Not only that, but there is evidence from psychological research that thinking about problems in relation to persons who are geographically distant can increase creativity. Virtual Dissertation Groups are a way to capture some of these benefits.
Here’s the basic setup. Interested students can fill out the contact form below, and at the beginning of each semester participants will receive the information for their three-membered group. Each full month of the semester, one member of the group will submit some of their in-progress dissertation work to the others. Those other members will then email comments in response, hopefully generating some fun exchanges in the process. I’ll send out email reminders when it’s time to circulate work and return comments.
Editors: Patrick Grim, Paul Boswell, Daniel Drucker & Sydney Keough
Nominating Editors: Rachel Barney, J.C. Beall, Ned Block, Ben Bradley, Tyler Burge, David Chalmers, Andrew Chignell, David Christensen, Gregory Currie, David Danks, Keith DeRose, Cian Dorr, Lisa Downing, Julia Driver, Adam Elga, Branden Fitelson, Owen Flanagan, Stacie Friend, Tamar Szabo Gendler, Ned Hall, Elizabeth Harman, Verity Harte, Gary Hatfield, Benj Hellie, Christopher Hitchcock, Des Hogan, Brad Inwood, Simon Keller, Tom Kelly, Josh Knobe, Jonathan Kvanvig, Marc Lange, Brian Leiter, Neil Levy, Martin Lin, Peter Ludlow, Ishani Maitra, Shaun Nichols, Paul Noordhof, Derk Pereboom, Jim Pryor, Greg Restall, Geoff Sayre-McCord, Richard Scheines, Mark Schroeder, Laura Schroeter, Ted Sider, Michael Slote, Scott Soames, Roy Sorensen, Peter Spirtes, Johan van Benthem, Mark van Roojen, Peter Vranas, Ted Warfield, Eric Watkins, Sam Wheeler, Jim Woodward, Gideon Yaffe.
[BL comment: I was pleased that two papers I nominated [Neuhouser, Ypi] were chosen! Congratulations to all the philosophers whose work was recognized.]
ADDENDUM: Author affiliations are R.M. Adams (emeritus, UCLA, Yale, and UNC-Chapel Hill; currently part-time at Rutgers); A. Bacon (Southern California); JC Beall (U Conn); M. Caie (Pittsburgh); K. Fine (NYU); M. Kotzen (UNC-Chapel Hill); M. Lange (UNC-Chapel Hill); F. Neuhouser (Barnard/Columbia); I. Phillips (UCL); L. Ypi (LSE).
ANOTHER: This seems a bit myopic; there are many areas underrepresented in the PA, especially relative to their importance in the discipline--history of philosophy, most obviously, though PA has gotten a bit better on that score over time; aesthetics; philosophy of law; and so on. Obviously if you pick just ten articles, you miss a lot. Historically, as I've noted before, PA has a pretty good track record of picking significant articles (look back twenty years, and scroll through the choices), but it is inevitable the picks will be under-inclusive with respect to important articles across multiple fields.
CHE account here. CHE quotes philosopher Hilde Lindemann (Michigan State) as follows:
Hilde Lindemann, a professor at Michigan State University who heads the philosophical association’s Committee on the Status of Women, says professors at East Carolina should have taken the charges into consideration, even though Mr. McGinn wasn’t found responsible for sexual harassment.
"It does seem there is a preponderance of evidence that suggests Colin McGinn is not trustworthy around women who have less power than he does," says Ms. Lindemann. "The fact that nothing has been proved, if anyone thinks that means the evidence should be discounted, then I would respectfully disagree."
She adds: "Until we can fix the climate so that it becomes unthinkable to harass a grad student, we will end up with more departments like East Carolina who feel unless you can prove this sinner has sinned, we’re going to hire him."
I am curious what other philosophers think about this. I would prefer signed comments, but at a minimum comments must have a valid e-mail address. Keep them substantive.
Continental Philosophy Farhang Erfani, a philosopher at American University, provides a useful set of links to news, events, interviews, reviews, videos, etc. related to "Continental philosophy" (broadly construed)