Thursday, August 11, 2011

DOOM: Fake Pluralist Losers Edition

In my time away, I had somehow formed the impression (false, I have learned) that the geniuses behind the disastrous "pluralist's guide" had done the minimally un-dumb thing and simply removed the "climate" section altogether, perhaps replacing it with a sensible and forceful statement about the serious gender issues that remain unresolved (and widely unacknowledged) in the profession, links to the discussion threads on various blogs, and so on. They might even have asked some of their best critics (Professor Kukla especially) to contribute to such a statement.

But, alas, they have not. What a bunch of losers.


Aristotle's riding crop said...

Dunning-Kruger strikes again!

Anonymous said...

Well, OK, let's suppose that the people behind the Pluralist Guide are losers. Maybe it's so.

I, on the other hand, can't help but notice an equal and opposite loser on the other side of the issue: Brian Leiter.

Have you taken a gander at his latest, truly bizarre post about the sexual harassment allegations at U of Oregon? Apparently, at least as I read his account, the allegations have been dismissed, on the basis of a lack of evidence, and, it seems, even of an accuser willing to stick to any allegations.

And what does the great legal and philosophical mind of Brian Leiter conclude? That, of course, we all know that the absence of evidence in these proceedings DOESN'T entail that harassment didn't actually occur.

For Christ's goddamn sake, is THAT a wretched and embarrassing argument!

Look, ALL WE HAVE in the case of allegations like this are the results of the investigation -- which have come up entirely empty. Is Leiter truly suggesting, as he seems to be here, that we must treat even allegations for which no evidence survives the process of investigation as if they are true, because, somehow, we "know" that they must be true?

This crazy idea issues from the pen of a mind supposedly trained in the law?

We are obliged to treat the allegations of harassment in a department as if they are true, and weigh those allegations very much against a department, even in the case that the entire case appears to disappear into thin air?

What kind of bizarro world do we live in, if that's so? And why is Leiter demanding that we embrace such a world?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 11:20: There's no reason whatsoever to think that the investigation has "come up entirely empty" or that "no evidence survives" of misconduct. What we do know, from the OU clowns themselves, is that the investigation has found that "there was insufficient evidence to conclude that there were policy violations as alleged." Even they are careful enough not to pronounce the alleged sexual predator innocent. There being insufficient evidence for disciplinary action is perfectly compatible with there being some evidence of malfeasance (also recall the recent lively discussion at Feminist Philosophers about the AAUP's take on the standards of evidence in internal sexual harassment proceedings). And at any rate Leiter does not suggest, as you inanely misinterpret him, that the allegations against the OU DUS were true or that the official investigation itself was flawed.

Either way, probably the most outrageous aspect of the OU business has not been the allegation of harassment itself, but the pressure the self-styled feminist Bonnie Mann put on students, during mandatory meetings with her in her capacity as DGS, to stay silent about the very fact that there was an investigation going on, in order to secure the SWIP-UK award.

And finally, even if OU, against all indications of strife and rancor, has the best imaginable climate for women, that does not vindicate the PG climate guide, which has so many other problems that people still standing by it in any way should die of shame (but alas, they all seem to be quite shameless).

729 not logged in said...

Can I vent a little, fellow philosophical travelers? Please, indulge me for a moment.

These guides to graduate programs, rankings, climates, specialties, etc., are supposed to have this noble, major aim--helping philosophy undergraduates, the intrepid, maybe foolish, maybe ambitious, maybe amazingly talented, select a graduate program. The "help" is supposed to be information of different sorts. None of this information, whatever guide we're talking about, whatever guide appears in the future, takes the place of ADVISING.

Students graduating from a department like my own just so happen to be the sort of students cast as especially needing the sort of extra-departmental information that such guides can deliver. I hate to burst the bubble, but just think about this for a second. At least on my end, any of the philosophy majors bright and resourceful enough to be considering graduate programs in philosophy have not merely devoured all the information our there about graduate programs, every controversy displayed online about graduate programs, regularly read all our professionally oriented blogs (including this one), but form their own facebook groups and wikis to talk about us amongst themselves.

With students like these, whatever damage has been done is already done. In the meantime, advising remains constant. At the end of the day, after the google searching and facebook messages are done, students will still arrive at one's office and need to be mentored through the whole process. There is no substitue for this part of our jobs. I could write at length about great strategies for advising students through the graduate school application process--and without a doubt many, many of you all could as well. My take-away from "all of this" is to double-down on advising. That is all. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:08,

Do you seriously not get that there is no category of "proven innocent" in such proceedings -- or in criminal legal proceedings -- and for good reason?

Look, in virtually ANY case like this in which allegations of harassment are made, it's going to be virtually impossible for the genuinely innocent who is accused to "prove" their innocence. If it's he-said-she-said, how could there be, pretty much in general? How right would it be to use their failure to "prove" their innocence as suggesting that their claims to innocence are dubious?

And it doesn't exactly matter, does it, that in OTHER possible investigations, other standards of evidence and proof might be employed, right? This is the investigation we've got, and they've turned up nothing that they are willing to claim sticks. That investigation has I repeat, turned up NO results it can report. It's over for that investigation, absent further developments. There's nothing, nada. Pretending that there's something would be simply dishonest.

I realize it may be a bitter pill for the Leiter side to realize that the major claim they've been asserting about UO philosophy has no merit. But it is the truth, and one would have to be a hack to keep pretending that there's "really" something there, when the only fair procedure to find out if there's something has turned up nothing.

Anonymous said...

I'm anon of 1:28.

I can't help but be struck by the irony of the Leiter side decrying in chorus the horrible unfairness and irrationality of the judgments rendered in the Pluralist Guide, while simultaneously insinuating that the alleged harassment at the UO department must still be regarded as somehow "real" even when the only investigation to determine whether it is so has instead decided that the evidence simply wasn't there (again, even the supposed accuser has not, apparently, made, or stuck to, any formal allegations!)

Anonymous said...

@Anon 1:27/1:41: You are (again?) wrong. In many US jurisdictions (e.g. California), courts can make a finding of factual innocence (as opposed to absence of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt) thought they do it rarely. And the faculty letter (if perhaps not the internal investigation) could certainly have said that he was factually innocent if that's what they thought. And of course, you're just playing dumb when you say that the investigation found no evidence it could report. Since they found the evidence was not sufficient to merit disciplinary action, any evidence they may have found must naturally be kept confidential. This is not to say that there was no evidence (or that there was).

And nobody - not Leiter, not me - is insisting that the alleged harassment must still be considered "somehow 'real'" - you're just making that up out of whole cloth.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:41 -- Where are you getting the idea that there is a "Leiter Side"? (This is a genuine, non-rhetorical question)

Leiter has his views. He shares them, and in doing so he speaks for one person and one person only: himself.

publius said...

That's really weird. I thought I posted a comment and it seemed to show up, and then it vanished. I posted it again, and it definitely showed up, and then within minutes it was gone.

Spiros, did you remove it? Was it objectionable in some way??

Anonymous said...

Looks like the Bonnie Mann 'black helicopter' crowd has arrived!

Obvious what happened: statute of limitations. The kid was freaked out, didn't file a complaint in time. It's why sexual harassers are so successful.

Spiros said...

8:29 -- I did not remove your comment(s). Must be some glitch w/ blogger.

Anonymous said...

The newspaper "report" Bonnie Mann cites indicates that the insufficiency of the evidence was due to a lack of complaining witnesses. That is, the alleged victim(s) declined to press charges. This is, obviously, compatible with the possibility that no crime was committed. But it is just as obviously compatible with the possibility that a crime was committed--there are lots of reasons why a victim of such a crime would decline to press charges.

Anonymous said...

Jeez, the level of analysis in this place leaves me almost speechless.

Look, anon 7:59, of what matter is it that in some jurisdictions, on some rare matters, a category of "found innocent" is respected? Does that matter to the case at hand, in which no such category is so respected? The point is, we need to make sense of the ACTUAL nature of the investigation at UO, not a POSSIBLE way it might have been conducted under other rules.

Is this point hard to grasp? Seriously?

I appealed to the more basic principle that lies behind the nearly perfect (if not perfect) adherence in criminal (and similar) proceedings, namely, that it is unjust and destructive to introduce a separate category of "proven innocent". Why is it so? Precisely because it introduces invidious distinctions between those who might, by some fluke of evidence and situation, actually be able to PROVE that they are innocent of a charge (they have an alibi, etc.), and those who are innocent, but aren't fortunate enough to be in possession of such exculpatory evidence. As I said -- and as you never addressed -- this is particularly a vexing problem with he-said-she-said sorts of cases. Why should an innocent person be put under a cloud because of a mere accusation?

And your idea that Leiter and you aren't saying that there must, nonetheless, be something "real" to the accusations is belied by the very sorts of, frankly, rather disturbing insinuations you and he engage in on this very issue. The entire point of Leiter's bringing up the fact that, in effect, the person in question has not been "proven innocent" -- that there's the possibility that the accused is actually guilty of the purported charges -- is to put both this person, and the UO department, under a cloud. I should think that, for both this person, and the UO department, this cloud is very real indeed.

As I said, fair and reasonable people, looking at the investigation and its results, would simply conclude that the accused and the UO department must be treated as innocent. That cloud must be removed, however much some people may seek to keep it there, for whatever reason. Yes, there is always the possibility that the person is guilty. But in a society that cares about fairness to individuals and organizations, that is the ONLY just way to act.

publius said...

"As I said, fair and reasonable people, looking at the investigation and its results, would simply conclude that the accused and the UO department must be treated as innocent."

You may well have said it, but it isn't true. It's perfectly reasonable to be very wary of a department under the current epistemic conditions. (Would you advise your sister to go on a date to a lonely, secluded spot with OJ Simpson?)

Here's some friendly advice, by the way. When you write things like

"Is this point hard to grasp? Seriously?"

it just makes you look kind of clueless, yourself. I understand that you believe you are saying something that's obviously true, and your critics are either bigots or stupid or just being difficult. But in fact, that's not how it is, and your attempt to be condescending just comes off really lame.

Anonymous said...


You just aren't getting it.

The issue in question is NOT an epistemic one, fundamentally. Even in those cases in which the accused supposedly is actually "proved" innocent, it may still be rational to hold this accused person as being more likely to be guilty than someone about whom such accusations were never made. In many such cases of "proved" innocence (e.g., some fairly well established alibi is offered up) the question will remain whether the "proof" of innocence is truly convincing. Despite the finding of innocence, it may be more than reasonable to hold that such a person is more likely to be at risk of performing the alleged behavior than someone against whom no such allegations have ever been made.

Does that mean it is FAIR AND JUST for us to treat this person as if they present some real risk of being, say, a predator, when the finding has been otherwise? No, because that is not what we, as civilized people, recognize as just treatment.

The point is, it's an issue of justice, not an issue strictly of what we supposedly know or don't know. We must simply turn a blind eye to allegations for which insufficient evidence is put on offer, because that's what justice demands.

Acting otherwise is to return to barbarism.

And I seem to be seeing a lot of barbarism in these parts.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 2:37 & 3:42: Even if the professor in question is not a sexual predator and has been accused unfairly, the OU department still very much deserves to be under a cloud because of faculty pressuring students - in mandatory meetings (!) - to stay mum about the investigation in order to secure the SWIP-UK award.

As for the alleged barbarism and your oh-so-precious invocations of justice and fairness, you should remember that we live in a society that is far more devastatingly affected by sexual harassment and sexual assault on women that goes unpunished because the system is rigged in various ways to shield the harassers and predators, than it is by occasional innocent tossers having to live under a cloud of suspicion.

publius said...

Ah -- someone else was finding it hard to grasp your point. Now I "just don't get it." I see. There's no chance that the problem has to do with the fact that your point is wrong, huh?

If you were to tell your daughter that she should go on a date to a secluded place with a man who you are pretty sure is a serial rapist, on the grounds that it would be unfair and unjust to treat him as guilty when he's been found not guilty in court (perhaps because of a technicality), then you would be an immoral person (and you'd probably need psychiatric help).

It's no different in kind for female students (rather than daughters) and graduate programs (rather than dates). It's only different in degree.

publius said...

Sorry -- my 4:25 was directed at 3:42 )etc/). While I was typing, 4:23 intervened.

Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Yeah. And why don't people leave Casey Anthony alone? The jury says she's not guilty. I bet the "climate" in the Anthony family is just wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Is it not unjustly fair to say
UO submits the case of OJ
to claim innocence
when good evidence
is not yet available per se?