Retaliation and the Ketland Case (Guest Post by Heidi Lockwood)


Heidi Lockwood is associate professor of philosophy at Southern Connecticut State University. She works on topics in logic, metaphysics, and epistemology, and has also done quite a lot of work, both written and behind the scenes, on issues related to sexual misconduct in the academy. She has guest posted* at Daily Nous before. In the following open letter she addresses some recent issues related to the Jeffrey Ketland and Charlotte Coursier case (previously), in particular Ketland’s posting to a blog (since removed) of a list of signatories to a petition to Oxford, which he then called a “lynchmob.”


Dear Oxford Faculty of Philosophy and M-Phi bloggers,

I read with dismay and deep sadness the post of Saturday September 6, “The Oxford Lynch Mob,” authored by Jeff Ketland, a lecturer at Pembroke College.

The post was taken down earlier today, but was up for four days. During that period there was no public response from the Oxford faculty or M-Phi bloggers. In the wake of the silence, I write to explain the badness of this particular speech-act.

First, there is clearly something problematic about a faculty member publishing a blog post which names and attempts to publicly shame more than 100 students. The faculty-student relationship is a fiduciary relationship in which students, who are in a position of relative vulnerability, vest confidence, good faith, reliance, and trust in faculty members, whose advice and academic mentoring is sought. Such a relationship requires the fiduciary to act unequivocally in the best interests of the one who trusts. To publish a list of students who have signed a letter asking for more transparency from the Oxford administration in a manner which suggests that they are guilty of harassment and mobbing is certainly not to act in the best interests of the students named.

Perhaps more importantly, “The Oxford Lynch Mob” post was a textbook case of victimisation (in the UK) and retaliation (in the US). While expressing one’s views on a harassment or equity case is generally not objectionable, publicly accusing a list of students who have written a letter to the university of “secret smear and mobbing,” even when one has been cleared of charges, crosses a very bright legal line.

This particular bright line is an important one, so allow me to elaborate:

Victimisation in the U.K.:

Victimisation is prohibited under the Equality Act 2010. Victimisation takes place when one person subjects another to a detriment because that individual has either engaged in protected behavior, or has helped another to do so. Protected behavior includes asserting one’s legal rights in line with the Act – and making an allegation (whether express or not) that the Act has been contravened. A detriment is interpreted very broadly as any less favorable treatment.

Some of the students who signed the Open Letter were simply asking for transparency regarding the investigation and decision to retain Ketland. Others who signed the Open Letter may have been making an implicit allegation that Ketland’s behavior constituted unwanted conduct which would not have occurred with a male student, i.e., harassment as defined by the Equality Act. Either way, they were engaging in protected behavior. To the extent that Ketland’s post is detrimental to those individuals, it constitutes victimisation and is therefore a violation of the Act – regardless of whether or not the allegation of harassment had merit.

Retaliation in the U.S.:

In the U.S., the ban against retaliation for protected behavior under Title IX was re-iterated in the recent April 2013 Dear Colleague Letter. There have been several recent high-profile retaliation cases, including a case this summer with a philosophy student at CU Boulder in which the university announced a settlement of $825,000 after the student issued an intent to sue for retaliation.

An action constitutes Title IX retaliation in the U.S. if: (1) the complainant who suffers the retaliation engaged in protected conduct (including, e.g., supporting a victim of a civil rights violation); (2) the complainant suffered a materially adverse action (any action that is likely to dissuade a reasonable person in the complainant’s position from exercising his or her legal rights); and (3) there is sufficient evidence to prove that the materially adverse consequence was related to the protected action.

In other words, any action that would dissuade a reasonable person from filing an equity complaint constitutes retaliation, assuming that a link between the action and protected conduct can be established.

As the Department of Justice legal manual on the subject explains, “A right cannot exist in the absence of some credible and effective mechanism for its enforcement and enforcement cannot occur in the absence of a beneficiary class willing and able to assert the right… Retaliation protections are designed to preserve the integrity and effectiveness of the enforcement process itself. Because of this purpose, the merits of any underlying complaint of sex discrimination are irrelevant in assessing a retaliation complaint. The prohibited conduct is the act of retaliation itself.”

Title IX is arguably not applicable in the M-Phi blog post case because the protected conduct did not occur at a university in the U.S. I say “arguably” because the question of whether Title IX governs inter-university and international behavior is an emerging and unsettled question. I include the information on Title IX retaliation here because some M-Phi bloggers and many Daily Nous readers hold positions at U.S. universities, and should be aware that any action that would dissuade reasonable persons from filing an equity complaint, regardless of whether that complaint has merit, constitutes retaliation, which can have significant legal consequences.

And, as is demonstrated by the pre-action letter in which both Colin McGinn and Ed Irwin were named along with the University of Miami, the legal consequences can apply to both institutions and individuals.

 

As some of you know, I have been a quiet supporter of Jeff over the past several months, trying to help him and his family through what has clearly been a very difficult period. I made the decision to provide this support after reading through a collection of dozens of emails between Jeff and Charlotte, the student he is accused of harassing, from 2008 up through her suicide in 2013. [Editorial note: text originally present at this part of this paragraph was removed at the request of the author; see this comment.] It is difficult correspondence to read. My heart goes out to all involved, including, of course, Charlotte’s family and friends and Jeff’s family and friends. I am hoping that counseling will help the healing process to begin, and will continue to provide whatever support I can.

Charlotte is dead, and therefore can no longer be helped. Jeff is not dead – and is in many ways a victim of both his own unsuccessful efforts to prevent a student from taking her life, and the university’s failure to respond to distress pleas from both sides. His wife and 4-year-old son are also victims of the situation.

There have been enough victims already.

Please, don’t ostrich on this case. Understand that there is deep anger and fear on both sides of the conflict, and that both students and faculty will need active support going forward so that no further harm is done.

Sincerely,
Heidi Howkins Lockwood

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Catarina Dutilh Novaes
Catarina Dutilh Novaes
7 years ago

Hi Heidi,
Thank you so much for this. On behalf of M-Phi, I sincerely apologize for the fact that the post was up for so long. I only saw it myself yesterday (Tuesday) morning (after receiving an email from one of the signatories of the open letter, mentioned in the post), having been away from all online activity during the weekend, and somehow having been busy with other things on Monday. I, along with others, then immediately initiated attempts to convince Jeff to remove the post (as the blog owner, he was also the only one who coulc delete or edit posts by others). It took some time, but eventually he agreed, and as per this morning all his posts pertaining to these events have been removed.
Jeff will now distance himself completely from M-Phi; most likely, Richard Pettigrew and myself will take over the administration of the blog (as the two most active bloggers in recent times besides Jeff), but Richard is on vacation now so I’ll have to wait until he’s back to sort out the details. There is also the idea of starting a new blog dedicated to mathematics philosophy from scratch, but I personally think that we should continue with M-Phi. Needless to say, if we do that, we will have a post where we again apologize to readers and all those affected by these events, and announce the new setup of the blog.
Like you, I’ve been a quiet supporter of Jeff, for the same reasons as you. But this does not mean I will try to defend his actions here: his blog post was utterly, utterly inappropriate on so many levels. But as you suggest in your post, this is a result of Jeff also being a victim of the situation. I say this not in the sense of justifying his actions, not at all, but simply to add to the broader perspective that you are inviting us all to adopt in your post. So again, thanks.Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Reply to  Catarina Dutilh Novaes
7 years ago

Thank *you*, Catarina.Report

Drew
Drew
7 years ago

I don’t have much expertise in UK law so I won’t speak to that issue, but I do want to note that I doubt the Title IX claim could be sustained with a similar fact pattern in the US (and it certainly would not qualify as “textbook”). Frankly, I doubt any court would find having one’s name listed among more than a hundred others coupled with a collective reference to a “lynch mob” would qualify as “materially adverse” under the statute in any meaningful or legally cognizably way, and certainly not to the point of limiting the speaker’s First Amendment rights to prevent such a tenuous expression of disapproval on the part of the professor.

Also, as a side note I don’t think jurisdictionally there’s any legitimate argument for the case to apply in this situation; the first sentence of Title IX states clearly that “[n]o person in the United States shall . . .”Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Reply to  Drew
7 years ago

Drew, the position of the Office of Civil Rights — and the still minimal but suggestive case law in this area — indicates that “materially adverse” should be interpreted as any action that would dissuade a reasonable person from filing an equity complaint constitutes retaliation. It’s not a stretch to say that a person (particularly a student) would be dissuaded from signing the letter if s/he felt it might result in being named on a group blog published by a couple of dozen influential philosophers in connection with a smearing and mobbing campaign.

With respect to the jurisdiction, yes, as I indicated, Title IX does not currently apply to the behavior of U.S. academics when they’re outside the country. But the lines of what is inside and outside the country are becoming less clear, and the question of who should enforce Title IX obligations when the violation falls outside the traditional campus boundaries is being actively debated by policy-makers. (Suppose, for example, a U.S. student takes a course from a U.S. faculty member at a summer program in China. Does Title IX apply? Or suppose a student from University A violates the rights of a student from University B at a conference which occurs at University C. Which university should handle the complaint?)Report

Drew
Drew
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

Thanks for the response! I agree the Office of Civil Rights appears to take a very broad reading of Title IX’s retaliation criteria, but I don’t think even its interpretation would cover the fact pattern here, and if it did no Federal Court would set the bar so low in terms of what constitutes “retaliation.” While the courts will defer in some cases to administrative interpretations of the rules under Chevron v. NRDC, the interpretation at issue must be a reasonable one, and Federal courts have no problem putting regulatory agencies in their place.

While the case law on Title IX retaliation claims are minimal, as you note, the courts have invariably required some sort of tangible action; some actual real-world effect other than hurt feelings or a vague sense of dread. Furthermore, there is far more caselaw on Title VII retaliation, the analysis of which several Federal appellate courts have adopted as way to analyze Title IX retaliation cases (see Emeldi v. University of Oregon for that discussion). In analyzing what constitutes “retaliation,” courts looking at Title VII cases have rejected things like in-person “snubbing” or derogatory comments as retaliation. In this case, a criticism of a 100+ group of people outside any formal reprimand is just too tenuous.

It becomes even more tenuous and unsupportable when you add in the fact that this was done by a professor on his own time and not as a formal statement of the school (it’s still an open question as to whether private citizens are even subject to liability under Title IX), that his complaint seemed to have no basis in anything other than the students’ political position.

Finally, even if you could maintain that his generic criticism might reasonably prevent a student from undertaking that action in the future (which again, I think you could never do), the actual action he was criticizing was NOT the protected act of filing a complaint with the school, the actual action was writing a letter about concerns with procedural methods the university was using.

Frankly, this is not anywhere near a close issue; this is not proscribed conduct under Title IX.Report

Anon
Anon
7 years ago

I’m no lawyer, but I think the claim that the post violated UK law is also overstated.

The clause of the Equality Act that defines protected acts says (in full):

(2) Each of the following is a protected act—

(a) bringing proceedings under this Act;

(b) giving evidence or information in connection with proceedings under this Act;

(c) doing any other thing for the purposes of or in connection with this Act;

(d) making an allegation (whether or not express) that A or another person has contravened this Act.

It’s wholly unclear that any of these conditions are satisfied by the letter. Certainly, if the letter was merely a call for transparency in the handling of Ketland’s case, it doesn’t seem to qualify. (Perhaps it would qualify if it constituted an implicit allegation that he had contravened the act; but this seems at odds with the content of the letter and the stated motives of many of the signatories.)Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Reply to  Anon
7 years ago

Anon, I’m no lawyer either — and this post should of course not be taken as legal advice. (It is never a good idea to take legal advice from philosophers!) That said, I don’t think there has been a week in the past six months in which I haven’t been in communication with one attorney or another regarding the various cases that have either already been filed or are brewing, in both the U.S. and the U.K. In fact, this post was quickly reviewed by an attorney who practices in both the U.S. and U.K.

Ultimately the only way to test the assertion would be to file a case. But it seems quite reasonable to think that a letter which expresses “concern and dismay over the findings of the inquest” constitutes protected conduct under clause (c), given that the harassment, although not sexual, was grounded in a “protected characteristic” (the sex of the student), and therefore an example of the sort of discrimination described in section 19 of the Equality Act: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/19Report

anonymous
anonymous
7 years ago

In this blog, you chose to reveal in broad terms aspects of private email correspondence between two people. This seems quite unnecessary to make the useful points you make about retaliation, and it is upsetting to be told such intensely personal things. I wonder if you could consider retracting those parts of your otherwise helpful blog. Thank you.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
Reply to  anonymous
7 years ago

I just want to second this. I appreciated the post, but the discussion of the personal correspondence seemed completely irrelevant/unnecessary, and disconcertingly revealing. (I’m actually not myself sure what it has to do with the first part of the post at all.)Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Reply to  anonymous
7 years ago

Thank you for your perceptive and compassionate comment, anonymous. It was a very, very difficult decision to reveal even the little bit that I did. Part of the reason I did so is because I think it is important to give those who care about the situation but do not have much information a glimpse of just how complex it is. (What I have said is not news to Jeff’s family, by the way.) There is much more to say, but I obviously cannot and will not reveal more. Lack of information, lack of understanding, and lack of transparency has exacerbated the situation thus far. I hope that simply revealing that there is an email exchange will help open the dialogue, if dialogue is still possible.

I received an email from another philosopher, by the way, expressing concern about the fact that I chose to draw a parallel to Fatal Attraction. Apparently the movie version of that story places the blame on the woman, and makes her seem evil. This was *not* at all what I had intended, and a product of my general cultural illiteracy. What I had intended to illustrate was simply the complexity of the psychological landscape. I retract the reference, and apologize to Charlotte’s family and friends for any misunderstanding.Report

Jean
Jean
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

Your revelations don’t seem respectful of either party (one of who whom can’t possibly consent). Nor do they do anything to explain why you’ve been supportive of Ketland or why he’s innocent of wrongdoing. My feeling is that a faculty member has no business being involved in an email exchange of that sort with a student, especially someone known to have a history of depression and suicidal behavior.Report

Elizabeth Harman
Elizabeth Harman
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

You should have the consent of the student’s family before revealing anything about her email correspondence.Report

Anon
Anon
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

I’m glad you retract the Fatal Attraction reference in principal, but I think it needs to be literally retracted from the post. If the parallel is not accurate, it is a terrible and unwarranted insult to a woman who cannot defend herself.Report

anonymous
anonymous
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

In an earlier post, Ketland accused Ms. Coursier of stalking and assaulting him, and yet I don’t see anyone victim-blaming him, calling him a liar, or people refusing to believe him (at best, insisting that these incidents are merely “alleged”). This is on top of the fact that he had an affair with her (it wasn’t clear whether this occurred while she was still an undergraduate at the university where he was employed–if it did, it was a gross abuse of power to say the least).

If Ms. Coursier had accused Ketland of assaulting and stalking her, everyone would be quick to become radical skeptics and say, at best, that these were merely “alleged,” that they didn’t really happen unless she took it to the police and he was convicted (unlikely, given the way the justice system treats women), and that he should be no means suffer negative consequences unless and until his accuser met some impossible evidentiary standards. I think we need to ask ourselves why we are so quick to assume he deserves our support and that he is “innocent” when we do much less for those who have suffered much worse.Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

Liz: Yes, you’re correct.

Jean and others: my remark about providing support may have been misleading. I do not support what Jeff did. As he knows, I feel it was reprehensible and morally blameworthy. It was not, however, under the *current* U.K. policies and norms, an instance of sexual misconduct. And if ever there were a case which illustrates why the policies should be reconsidered, this is it.

In other words, I wholeheartedly agree that a faculty member should not engage in a consensual relationship with a fragile student. But I also don’t think that we have the capacity to know who is and is not fragile — which means that I believe *any* consensual faculty-student relationship is at best ill-advised and at worst a recipe for tragedy. This is not a popular view in the U.K.; I have been accused of being an out-of-synch American prude for even suggesting that those who are interested in engaging in such relationships should wait until the student is in a less vulnerable position.

I am hoping, for the sake of all who have been harmed (not the least of whom is Charlotte) that some small good can still come out of this tragedy — that drawing attention to the fact that the relationship appears to have been consensual but NOT OK will generate the kind of discussion which might lead to change. In referencing the emails, I intended to reference my grounds for thinking that the relationships was “consensual” — not the content of the correspondence.

I use scare quotes around ‘consensual’ because I don’t in fact believe that bona fide consensual relationships are possible in situations in which there is a dramatic power asymmetry. See this post (and the comments) for an explanation of this belief: http://www.newappsblog.com/2013/10/a-philosophers-open-letter-to-katie-roiphe.html

Finally, for what it’s worth, this post was not intended to be purely about retaliation and victimisation, but rather about the issues that are raised by the case, particularly as they apply to broader challenges at Oxford.Report

anonymous
anonymous
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

Heidi, I don’t know what dialogue you wanted to open by revealing something of the content of this highly personal email exchange, let alone by offering your own interpretation of the relationship. Dialogue between whom? You seem to imply that there was some failure on the part of Oxford University in not replying directly to the original blog post by Ketland a few days ago. Do you seriously think that the University’s central administration, or the Philosophy Faculty, has some obligation to post comments on a public blog? And do you seriously think that just because they did not, they are ‘ostriching’ this case and doing nothing about it? I am quite sure that over the last fifteen months, a great deal of strenuous effort has been exerted by many people in attempting to deal with this case.Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

anonymous at Sept 10 11:49:

Yes, given that I believe that the post constituted retaliation/victimisation, I do think that Oxford has an obligation to issue a public statement — even if it is simply to protect future possible complainants via a reminder of the unacceptability of unfavourable actions when members of the community have engaged in protected behaviour. I do not of course think that such a statement should be via a comment on a blog. (!) Institutions have much better avenues for public communications.

And yes, of course I realize that a great deal of effort has been spent by many people at Oxford over the past 15 months — including faculty. I have spoken with several of them, at length. The problem is that these efforts have been neither public nor, in the case of the administration, transparent. In order for students to feel safe and supported, they need to know what has or has not been done, and why. Much can be disclosed without violating privacy requirements.

With respect to what dialogue I am hoping to encourage: my experience has been that sometimes carefully posed questions and thoughts in the blogosphere can trigger the sorts of on-campus conversations and meetings that are required to bring about a change in policy. (I’m not saying that I can be credited with this — merely that it has happened.)Report

anon22
anon22
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
7 years ago

The fatal attraction reference is still out there and will always be out there. I am appalled that this unfortunate woman has been insulted like this.

I do not know the facts of this case, but I am struggling to understand why an affair between a professor and a student that was followed by such a horrendous outcome for the student should occasion such an insult of the victim in the case, while asking people to understand “the complexity of the psychological landscape”.

My question is, can people take a hard look at their behaviour in other cases? Ludlow? McGinn? Anyone who even hinted (in connection with the Ludlow case) that the woman’s role in what happened was complex—never mind brought up horrific pop culture references—was completely condemned.

I am really confused. Perhaps Ketland deserves all the support he is getting from such reputable feminists. But then people should bring a similar understanding to the other cases.Report

Anon
Anon
7 years ago

Leaving aside the Title IX issue, the original post was libelous. The horrible thing about being libeled on the Internet is that even after the post is taken down, it is available via many other sources, including, at this moment, a philosophy blog aggregator. As one of the signatories of the Open Letter, I’m furious about this.Report

Jacob Williamson
Reply to  Anon
7 years ago

The aggregator I was aware of has since removed the post. If you know of anywhere else it is still available, please let me know.Report

Matt Drabek
Reply to  Anon
7 years ago

Given the fact that many well known philosophers and philosophy bloggers have relentlessly and falsely accused people of committing libel against them, I think we should take a deep breath and rethink things before calling posts “libelous.”

Libel lawsuit threats are used almost exclusively to try to shut people up. They’re rarely ever based in fact, and rarely ever result in a winning lawsuit.Report

Drew
Drew
Reply to  Anon
7 years ago

I can’t speak to UK law, but in the United States it wouldn’t be libel. No reasonable listener would interpret “lynch mob” to be a literal description of what you were trying to do; it would be protected opinion.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
7 years ago

I can believe that genuine ambiguity about jurisdiction can arise in cross-border situations of various kinds. But unless I’ve missed an annexation, there shouldn’t be any ambiguity as to whether the laws of the United States apply to UK citizens, resident in the UK, and employed by a UK institution, with respect to activities conducted on UK soil. US courts have no jurisdiction in this country and UK courts follow UK (English or Scottish) law, not US law.

(I also remain doubtful – cf my comments on a previous thread – as to whether a reading of Title IX that broad can stand constitutional challenge on First Amendment grounds – but I’m way out of my depth here.)Report

philodaria
philodaria
Reply to  David Wallace
7 years ago

David, I’m not sure (and I don’t think Title IX has been tested yet on first amendment grounds), but I suspect the interaction here would result in something similar to the legal tests required for first amendment claims for government employee’s — in those cases, the claim must establish that the speech was addressing a matter of public concern (which is just a bit trickier than it sounds), and that the government’s ability to efficiently provide services was not substantially adversely effected, and that the speech did not significantly interfere with the employees job. So, I am not as doubtful as you, because the ability to bring forward concerns of harassment and assault are important enough to the equitable functioning of an educational institution that failing to protect them would inhibit the government’s ability to provide the intended federally funded services.Report

anonymous
anonymous
7 years ago

Heidi, I do not doubt your motivations are well-intentioned, but I still don’t agree that revealing details about a private email correspondence where one party cannot possibly agree to this can possibly be justified in the name of encouraging dialogue and openness. You would have at least to be sure that a) without such revelation, the outcome would be significantly and relevantly worse and b) that you are the right person to decide to make these revelations.Report

justinrweinberg
Reply to  anonymous
7 years ago

Note that the post has been edited.Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Reply to  anonymous
7 years ago

Also please note that “details” were not revealed.Report

Zara
Zara
7 years ago

The McGinn case should teach anyone that the best course of action if you’re accused of any misconduct, sexual or otherwise, is simply not to either comment publicly or comment publicly or privately in writing. Ever. No blog posts. No Facebook comments. No emails. Any communications that seem absolutely necessary — e.g., communications made to a court of law — should be done through a proxy, usually a lawyer. I suspect that there’s less blog discussion of Ludlow and Pogge, as opposed to McGinn and now Ketland, precisely because Ludlow and Pogge have resisted public comment (to my knowledge).Report

anon22
anon22
7 years ago

This is right from the point of view of alleged harassers but what about the point of view of people who are passing judgement on these cases, often in the light of partial information and/or no adjudication? Should we not understand that these situations are often complex, and need our understanding, as is being done in this case?

I am reacting against what appear to be very selective responses to these cases. For example in Ludlow’s case, almost nobody on the blogs has asked that people understand his situation, at least as far as I know.Report

Catarina Dutilh Novaes
Catarina Dutilh Novaes
Reply to  anon22
7 years ago

I guess this is the case simply because the situations themselves are very different. I know Jeff Ketland well, and know the ins and outs of his story (at least, his version of it) much better than in the other cases. I don’t think I know enough about the other cases to play any kind of active role. (To be honest, I also knew Peter Ludlow quite well prior to the dramatic events in his life, though not nearly as well as Jeff. But Ludlow has not contacted me since, and though I thought a few times about contacting him, I never did. Had he contacted me, and despite the fact that, in my opinion, what he himself admitted having happened is already very bad, I would have listened to what he would have to say.)
But I do think that in all these cases we should strive to continue to treat the alleged perpetrators with respect. I was very bothered by the instances of them (especially McGinn) being ridiculed in public. Even if a person has engaged in horrible behavior, this does not mean he or she should be treated with disdain in public: two wrongs don’t make a right. I also think we should refrain from speculating in public on the basis of scant information. In this sense, the different stories are analogous to me.
(It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that treating the alleged perpetrators with respect in no way constitutes a lack of appreciation for the situation of the victims, who should naturally receive even more support. But there’s no incompatibility there.)Report

anonphil
anonphil
Reply to  Catarina Dutilh Novaes
7 years ago

“Even if a person has engaged in horrible behavior, this does not mean he or she should be treated with disdain in public: two wrongs don’t make a right.”

True, it doesn’t mean he “should” be treated with public disdain. But it might mean that public disdain is not objectionable.

If you prefer to live according to the “two wrongs” homily or your own personal manner, that’s not objectionable, either.Report

Zara
Zara
7 years ago

As anon22 notes, my remark was only about the best course of action for anyone accused of any misconduct of any kind. Honestly I’m surprised that otherwise extremely intelligent people don’t seem to realize that anything you say can and will be used against you. As for those commenting on these cases, I would advise treading lightly for a couple of reasons. First, we typically have very little evidence: newspaper and magazine reports often get things wrong, at least in the details (do you really fully trust the CHE or Slate?); and there’ say substantial probability that reports from highly interested parties (ex-lovers, boyfriends of involved parties, friends of the accused, friends of the accuser) are biased. Second, you risk a lawsuit — or even the threat or a lawsuit, which can itself be stressful.

As for anon22’s example of Ludlow, I think that one of the reasons that”nobody on the blogs has asked that people understand his situation” is that his case simply was not that widely discussed — in contrast to, for example, McGinn. And, as suggested in my original post, the reason that his case was not that widely discussed is because he himself has resisted public commentary — from mutual friends I gather that he hasn’t even made a single comment on the semi-private space of Facebook.Report

Drongo Hobbes
7 years ago

“First, there is clearly something problematic about a faculty member publishing a blog post which names and attempts to publicly shame more than 100 students”

Whereas when 100 students name and attempt to publicly shame a faculty member and hound him out of his job, that’s not bullying, that’s just fine and dandy.

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.Report

Jacob Williamson
Reply to  Drongo Hobbes
7 years ago

“Drongo Hobbes” – no fair-minded reader of the Open Letter would interpret it as attempting to shame and ‘hound’ Dr Ketland out of his job. Please attempt to substantiate this preposterous claim with a citation, so people can judge for themselves. Here is the letter: http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2014/03/05/open-letter-from-over-100-oxford-students-and-alumni/Report

anonymous
anonymous
Reply to  Drongo Hobbes
7 years ago

Drongo Hobbes, you are simply wrong about the university proceedings. I might ask you also if you have ever taken a course in epistemology, or have the faintest idea how to assess claims and weigh up beliefs.
You are also simply wrong to say that these students were ‘naming and shaming’ Ketland. ‘Naming’ only occurs when the name is presented new to the public. The letter did not do that. Moreover, the letter did not ‘hound him’ out of his job. Firstly, it made no attempt to do so – it was questioning why the university had not availed itself of its capacity to suspend, without prejudice, on full pay, pending the outcomes of an investigation. (Such is widely common elsewhere.). Secondly, do you seriously think that the University would ride roughshod over employment law to satisfy a group of its students? For goodness sake man, what Oxford University do you know? Hardly an institution to bend over backwards to keep its students happy. Much more likely just to ignore them.
In fact, your misinformed rants are taking advantage of the very fact that the University has complied with employment law, and cannot clarify any aspects of this case, because such personnel matters are confidential. So you are taking EVERYTHING from what one party has said. Hmmm. Do you think you might take a refresher course on testimony?Report

Drongo Hobbes
Reply to  anonymous
7 years ago

Ah. Now this foolish person understands source of his ignorance. When instructed by feminists to believe anybody who says they’re harassed he thought by ‘anybody’ they meant anybody. But now, after encountering your subtle mind and great knowledge of long words, he realises they didn’t mean anybody by ‘anybody’, they meant anybody who is not a man. I am instructed by your good example to now understand as I ought: Anybody who *is* a man who says they’re harassed *shouldn’t* be believed. They must be accused of retaliation and victimization instead.Report

anonymous
anonymous
7 years ago

Re: Catarina Dutilh Novaes
September 14, 2014 – 2:35pm EDT at 2:35 pm
So, you confirm that the claim mentioned by Drongo Hobbes and endorsed by you came from the email correspondence. So “Drongo Hobbes” has access to this correspondence too, does he or she? Interesting. I wonder how that came about. That puts a particular gloss on his or her comments.Report

Catarina Dutilh Novaes
Catarina Dutilh Novaes
Reply to  anonymous
7 years ago

JK has circulated a dossier with material pertaining to this case among a number of people he felt he could trust, and who might help him in different ways (including telling him when he was off the mark, as I often did). I was one of them, as well as Heidi Lockwood, among other colleagues and friends. “Drongo Hobbes” could be any of them.
I now regret having endorsed the claim pertaining to CC’s reaction to the initial investigation. It is part of what may well be classified material, and though relevant for some of the points made here, it cannot be corroborated and thus must be left out of the discussion for this reason.Report