Nottingham Pulls Out of PGR (see 2nd Update from Nottingham)


The Department of Philosophy at the University of Nottingham has issued a statement asking to not be included in the Philosophical Gourmet Report while Brian Leiter has a leading or advisory role in it. Here is the statement:

We are concerned, as a department, about the recent behaviour of Professor Brian Leiter, editor of the Philosophical Gourmet Report, towards other members of our profession.

As a department, we hereby request that our department not be evaluated as part of any future edition of the Philosophical Gourmet
Report, whilst that edition is edited by (or is co-edited by, is advised by, or has on its advisory panel) Professor Leiter.

As a department, we will not use our ranking in previous editions of the Philosophical Gourmet Report as part of our future advertising, including on our website, and at undergraduate and postgraduate open days.

UPDATE: Brian Leiter writes in to add: “They can’t ‘pull out.’ This is what I told Jonathan Tallant, he said they would post that…. The PGR has always evaluated faculties based on their likelihood to be in the top cohort in their region of the world (that would be ‘top 15’ in the UK). Departments can request to opt in, but they can’t request to opt out. That has been the standing policy since the PGR assumed its current form nearly fifteen years ago, and it is based on the idea that it serves the interests of prospective students to know how the best programs in their region of the world compare with others. Consistent with that policy, if there is a 2014-15 PGR, Nottingham would be included for evaluation.


UPDATE 2 (10/3/14): Mark Jago (Nottingham) writes in with the following update and request:

The Philosophy Department at the University of Nottingham recently requested of Professor Leiter that we not be evaluated as a part of the PGR, given the current editorial arrangements. Our original statement is hereWe were, however, dismayed to learn from Professor Leiter that current PGR policy means that departments cannot make such a requests.

With his permission, we quote Professor Leiter here (our italics):

“The PGR has always evaluated faculties based on their likelihood to be in the top cohort in their region of the world (that would be ‘top 15’ in the UK).  Departments can request to opt in, but they can’t request to opt out. That has been the standing policy since the PGR assumed its current form nearly fifteen years ago, and it is based on the idea that it serves the interests of prospective students to know how the best programs in their region of the world compare with others. Consistent with that policy, if there is a 2014-15 PGR, Nottingham would be included for evaluation.”

We acknowledge that we have no control over who ranks us and by what criteria.

Nonetheless, we would like to have our request respected, and so we ask that Professor Leiter and Professor Brogaard (if appropriate, in consultation with the advisory board) consider a revision to PGR policy in order to respect such requests, and that our request be evaluated in light of this revised policy.

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Well
7 years ago

Well, I suppose if they had started from UBC it would have been too obvious. In any case Leiter is right here: within the law, anyone can publish a ranking of just about anything. The idea of pulling out doesn’t make sense.Report

Inference
Inference
Reply to  Well
7 years ago

“Within the law, A can phi B. Therefore trying to stop A from phi-ing B doesn’t make any sense”. This is a questionable principle of inference.Report

Well
Reply to  Inference
7 years ago

I said that pulling out doesn’t make sense, not that trying to stop the PGR doesn’t make sense.Report

P
P
Reply to  Well
7 years ago

Did Nottingham “pull out” of the PGR? Or isn’t it more accurate to say that they *asked* not to be evaluated? It seems to me that it was the latter, and that they were refused.Report

Matt
Matt
7 years ago

Boycotting does make sense insofar as it involves the department removing all reference to the rankings. BL could continue to rank departments, but if sufficiently many refused to reference them on their sites, they’d lose all relevance. It seems worthwhile.Report

Anon 1
Anon 1
Reply to  Matt
7 years ago

Exactly. And I imagine Blackwell would be considerably less interested in publishing the report if many of the departments that are part of the ranking disavow it in the way Matt suggests.Report

x
x
7 years ago

Following Matt’s thoughts, boycotting might also do something positive to the extent that it could include things like not confirming one’s faculty list, not reporting hires, et cetera, with Leiter, which, if everybody withheld, would make the project of the PGR somewhat more difficult. Good for Nottingham, anyway – I am curious if more departments will formally severe themselves as a whole as Nottingham has done (rather than just individual faculty members signing the statement).Report

Dawn Keeballs
Dawn Keeballs
7 years ago

If Leiter continues to post them and students continue to find them interesting they won’t lose all relevance. It’s not as if their influence requires departmental endorsement or publicity.Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
7 years ago

My understanding is that, at least in recent history, the PGR has depended upon departments submitting information to gather current data for its ranking. One of the things signatories to the September statement may take their pledge to commit them to is the refusal to submit such data. Clearly, Nottingham is making this commitment explicit. I don’t know whether whoever remains at the PGR under Leiter’s stewardship has other means for ensuring up-to-date information, but I would imagine such a refusal makes an accurate ranking more difficult, to put it mildly. So, the Nottingham pledge is not meaningless, nor is it meaningless to sign the September Statement, even for those who are confident they wouldn’t be asked to serve as an advisor or a ranker. One only need be in a department whose data is required for an accurate ranking. I myself have never served on the advisory board, nor as a ranker, though, so perhaps someone with greater familiarity of the process can correct me.Report

Dawn Keeballs
Dawn Keeballs
7 years ago

what data would they withhold? more specifically would that data prevent rankings without harming others, e.g. students who want to know if Professor X is still teaching there? This sounds like a return to the early 90s.Report

Matty
Matty
Reply to  Dawn Keeballs
7 years ago

Has Professor X left Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters? That would be news indeed.Report

Jan Dowell
Jan Dowell
7 years ago

Dawn Keeballs! How good to hear from you! I wondered when you were planning on making an appearance in our sad, little drama.Report

Mitchell Aboulafia
7 years ago

Folks, there is no Leiter stewardship of the PGR. He is the PGR. He won’t give it up. The fact that he is saying things like ‘you can’t opt out’ at this point is more evidence that he doesn’t plan to go. I hope that I am wrong here. I hope that the boycott has an impact. But I’m not sanguine. Unless a large number of schools refuse to cooperate, not just individual philosophers, I doubt that we will see much movement. (Most likely scenario: Brian promises to behave himself and most of those who support the way that he does the rankings give him a pass.)

I am disheartened by the fact that more of us aren’t using this opportunity to have a public, democratic, discussion about whether rankings are good for philosophers and philosophy. Failure to have a genuine discussion before moving ahead on any plan for rankings (with or without Leiter) is, well, unphilosophical. For what it’s worth, I wrote a (semi-playful) plea for such a discussion on my blog, [email protected] http://upnight.com/2014/10/01/rank-and-yank-whats-next-for-the-philosophy-rankings-game/Report

Dale Miller
Reply to  Mitchell Aboulafia
7 years ago

If you’re right to think that Leiter does indeed plan to continue the PGR no matter what, then the question of whether there will be rankings has already been settled. The only question that anyone else could face is whether to try to produce something superior or to leave the field to him.Report

Anon 2
Anon 2
7 years ago

A department’s publicly opting out of the PGR may be largely a symbolic gesture, but that doesn’t mean it will be ineffective. It strikes me as similar to divestment as a strategy for climate change, and likely to be subject to the same sorts of misinformed criticism (i.e. “Divesting your oil stocks is ineffective because someone else is just going to buy them and it won’t hurt the companies financially). This is missing the point of the strategy. The point is that if enough people sign on, eventually the industry (or in this case, the person) becomes a moral pariah and is effectively ostracized. I recommend other philosophy departments follow Nottingham’s lead and divest in Leiter now.Report

j/k
j/k
Reply to  Anon 2
7 years ago

Well, perhaps we can hope for something more than divestment offers:

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-09-22/divestment-s-easy-dumping-big-oil-isn-t

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-09-15/big-oil-versus-college-kids-part-2

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-09-11/college-students-can-t-defeat-big-oil

Sorry for the link spam, but since this is (presumably) a question of independent interest I thought I’d share them. I’ve been convinced by these arguments that promoting divestment is counterproductive.Report

anon
anon
7 years ago

i applaud Nottingham’s move here. I hope other departments will follow suit. Yes, Leither might include them in future rankings anyway (perhaps, as Jan Dowell suggests, on the basis of less-than-up-to-date data), but that’s not the point. But Nottingham is to be applauded for refusing to use PGR rankings to promote their department, and to *ask* that PGR not evaluate them (on my view, if this request is refused, as Leiter suggests it will be, that would itself constitute yet *another* instance of bad behavior on Leiter’s part).Report

Anon 1
Anon 1
Reply to  anon
7 years ago

As several people have pointed out in various venues over the past few weeks, I think it’s best to focus on examples of Leiter’s behavior that are obviously egregious, and to make those the sole grounds of demands that he step aside from the PGR. I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by pointing to not obviously egregious or, in this case, not even obviously bad, behavior (and I don’t think it’s obviously bad for a ranker to not submit to a request from a rankee that they (the rankee) not be ranked. There are all kinds of cases where it is not only permissible, but perhaps even required, that the ranker rank the rankee despite the rankee’s reluctance to be ranked).

Focusing on the marginal cases of bad behavior serves to dilute the message (in my view) and also to provide fodder to those who want to keep the status quo (since they can focus the debate on the marginal cases that their opponents brought up and not the egregious cases). It’s best, morally and strategically, to just focus on the egregiously bad behavior. There is certainly enough of it to warrant the kind of action demanded by signatories to the September Statement and the members of the advisory board that are asking Leiter to step aside. (Indeed, I think it’s enough that the head of the dominant ranking system in our discipline told a colleague that she is in a “shit department”. Whether the correspondence was intended to be private or not, it undermines the credibility of the PGR for its head to so flagrantly express this opinion about a department. But hey: there’s lots more out there that, on its own, warrants the reaction people are having).Report

Fritz Allhoff
Fritz Allhoff
7 years ago

I bet the Raiders wish they could pull out of the NFL power rankings, too. But hard to see why Sports Illustrated would care or want to oblige their request. Sometimes I’d like to pull out of student evaluations, too. (Sometimes not.) But we just can’t pick when and by whom we get evaluated.Report

Carolyn Dicey Jennings
Carolyn Dicey Jennings
7 years ago

Should you be able to opt out of Hot or Not ratings? I think so. Why? Because it is clear that such ratings could be found objectionable by reasonable people. It seems to me that honoring the request should depend on the purpose of the request. If someone asks to be left out of your rating system as a boycott, that request, it seems to me, should be honored. You can always point out on the rating website those departments that have opted out, so that students are aware of those departments. If I were asked to allow a department to opt out of being included in the placement data, I would seriously consider honoring that request (in consult with the rest of the committee), with the proviso that the request would be noted on the website.Report

M
M
Reply to  Carolyn Dicey Jennings
7 years ago

No one has a legitimate interest in how someone is rated by Hot or Not. Lots of people do have legitimate interests in knowing how Nottingham is viewed by the profession. I hope that you do not allow departments to opt out of having their placement records be public knowledge. It seems to me that this would exhibit a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of placement records’ being publicized.Report

Meh
Meh
7 years ago

So depts have a choice between being ranked with correct information and being ranked with out if date information. Not a promising revolutionary strategy.Report

Zachary Ernst
Zachary Ernst
7 years ago

Of course Leiter has it in his power to make whatever lists of departments he likes. Of course Nottingham can’t force Leiter to stop including them on his various lists. But the point of Nottingham’s request is that it’s a principled stand against Leiter’s bullying behavior, and it’s one of the most effective ways that the department can signal its collective disapproval of Leiter. The fact that Nottingham’s request has generated so much discussion shows that this *is* an effective way to protest against Leiter and his immature temper tantrums. I wish more departments would do the same.Report

James H
James H
7 years ago

Good on you, Nottingham. It’s both reassuring and somewhat unsettling that departments will do this and that departments will have to do this (respectively). Were I more tenured and/or less of a coward, I’d wish solidarity from my place of work; but given my cowardice, solidarity, and thank you for taking a stand.Report

pragma
pragma
7 years ago

Traditionally biased towards analytic departments and against continental ones, now making unhappy also fellow analitycs 🙂Report