From The Censor


One of the benefits of thought experiments and hypothetical examples is that, since the people with which they’re populated aren’t real, you can relentlessly discuss your way through the logical space without having to worry about how they’ll take what you’re saying about them. Your conversation might justifiably sound a bit different, I’d think, if your interlocutor was the one who was, say, tied to the trolley track—even if your conclusions were ultimately unchanged.

G. A. Cohen, in his Tanner Lectures, suggests that certain impersonal, sociological explanations for harmful behavior sound outrageous when a person tries to use them to explain her own harmful actions to the person she’s harming. He brings this up in a different context, and for different purposes, but we can borrow it. For example. it’s often true that people act selfishly, choosing to benefit themselves in relatively frivolous ways, instead of, for the same cost, benefitting others in important ways. As part of the explanation for why there are people dying of starvation, it’s reasonable to say that people are selfish. But, as an explanation for why you are buying a fancy bottle of wine rather than saving a starving person from death—an explanation you would offer to the starving person, face to face—that explanation does seem outrageous. Imagine being in conversation with the starving person.

Him: “I will die if you do not help me.”
You: “I am buying this bottle of wine, instead.”
Him: “Why?”
You: “People are selfish.”
Him: “But you could choose not to be selfish, right now. That bottle of wine isn’t so important. You can put it down.”
You: “Yeah, well, too bad. People are selfish.”
Him: “Even if people are generally selfish, whether you act selfishly now is within your control.”
You: ?

There has been a lot of heated disagreement in the comment threads lately, with a wide range of views on display. At the heart of several recent discussions is an alleged rape of one member of our community by another. This is not a hypothetical example. This is a real allegation, involving real people who might be affected, for better or worse, by things that are said here.

I have taken certain steps, as moderator, to try to balance the competing aims of having an open, informative, discussion about these matters and showing due concern towards members of our community. This has involved me rejecting a small number of comments, or suggesting specific changes to others, because I believed that the value such comments had was outweighed by the lack of consideration the comments showed towards the relevant members of our community.

“But such considerations shouldn’t get in the way of the no-holds-barred pursuit of the truth. After all, we’re philosophers! This is what philosophers do.”

Well, it is what we do sometimes, in some contexts. But other things are important, too, other things that may be at odds with the no-holds-barred approach (an example). After all, philosophers are people, too. In specific situations like the one now, we can weigh the value of these other things against the value of what’s gained by proceeding in a carelessly unrestrained way. So imagine yourself in conversation with one of the relevant parties to these events we’ve been discussing.

Her: “What you are going to say here is harmful.”
You: “I’m going to say it anyway.”
Her: “Why?”
You: “That is what philosophers do.”
Her: “But you could choose not to do that, right now. Saying that particular thing here isn’t so important. You can refrain.”
You: “Yeah, well, too bad. That is what philosophers do.”
Her: “Even if philosophers typically say those kinds of things, whether you say that thing here, now, is within your control.”
You: ?

Postscript:
You: “How are you harmed, exactly?”
Her: “You’re doing it again.”

This is not to say that difficult questions ought not to be asked, and difficult conversations had, but rather, when real people’s important interests are at stake, we should act in ways that take this seriously, proceed carefully, and not treat it as if it were a fun theoretical exercise.

How to do that is a judgment call, and I am comfortable admitting that limits on my time and wisdom make for an imperfect result.

Some of those whose comments I’ve rejected or suggested revisions to write back appreciatively. But other commenters object, and some object very loudly. Comments are moderated here, folks. That is not something I’ve ever been shy about. But I don’t think one can read the comments here and believe that I am failing to provide a forum in which a great variety of views, opinions, rhetorical styles, and personalities are expressed. The resulting array of comments may not be exactly what you want, I understand. But, before you make accusations about overbearing censorship and ideologically-driven moderation, take a moment to appreciate that it is not exactly what I want, either. I guess I must be a lousy censor.

guest
42 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Will Behun
Will Behun
5 years ago

I am often guilty of failing to consider the living breathing human beings involved when I shoot my mouth off. Although I haven’t had any of my comments moderated, I’m grateful that if I do cross the line and write something that through my carelessness or ignorance could hurt someone who is already in a difficult position, someone is there to stop me.

It’s a horrible cliché of course, but it doesn’t hurt to go through the checklist before one posts:

1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it kind?

I would almost be tempted to reverse 2 and 3…sometimes we are obligated to say unkind things. But I would argue that that is rarely the case in the comments section of a blog.Report

Anon
Anon
5 years ago

You are doing a great job, Justin. Some important conversations are happening here that haven’t been allowed to happen at other places. The most open discussion in the profession on the widest range of topics takes place at this blog, not at those other places. You don’t need to apologize to anyone; it’s philosophers who don’t understand how to have a public discussion who are at fault here.Report

JT
JT
5 years ago

Thank you for writing this, Justin. I’ve never understood why saying whatever pops into mind come what may has become a virtue of the day. Speech for the sake of speech is just noise. And deafening, jarring noise can be painful and even oppressive. If you can’t make your point without raising your volume and tenor to levels that are painful and oppressive to your interlocutors, then your point probably isn’t worth making.Report

Anonymity now
Anonymity now
5 years ago

Hi, Justin. I wonder if you can clarify something for us.

The impression I get from briefly perusing the discussions elsewhere is that some people here whose comments were censored say they were just trying to assert that, despite what Kipnis’ detractors are saying, it’s understandable that Kipnis may have believed that the graduate student dated Ludlow at one point, since the main accounts included Ludlow’s claim that she had been and did not include the graduate student’s claim that she hadn’t been. I don’t have any basis for thinking that’s true or false. But if it is true, or if it’s plausible that the people who wrote the censored comments thought it was true, and if this really is what the censored people were saying, then it seems the censored people weren’t really saying anything objectionable or hurtful about the graduate student. They were just trying to object to a criticism of Kipnis, and nothing about the graduate student would then follow from their objection. The alleged rape would not then be central at all to the objections or the issue, but tangential. The central issue would be, did Kipnis act wrongly? And that issue would depend on what had been *reported* about the grad student’s allegations, but it would not depend at all on what the grad student actually alleged, and still less on whether those allegations were true. So *if* this is a fair account of what got censored, I don’t see the basis for the censorship. Thanks for reading.Report

m
m
5 years ago

I agree with everything except the framing of the problem as concern for truth trumping emotional/moral sensitivity. The effects of one’s speech *are* part of the truth — it’s true that saying X will have effects Z — and furthermore, the effects of one’s speech should be able to affect what one thinks is true. If Uncle Racist keeps saying that certain people should go back where they came from, and his interlocutors keep getting angry at him, the anger is a data point. It’s some evidence that he should reevaluate whether that belief of his is true. There’s a reason why people are angry, and he should try to find out what it is. This should begin a path of inquiry that results in him changing his mind. And if he changes his mind, it will be because of the truths he’s discovered, not because people are angry and he just wants to appease them. (And this is why we won’t always — nor should we — decide to change our beliefs because of the way people react to them. If Aunt Feminist keeps getting yelled at for saying that women shouldn’t be told to smile, she should reevaluate and then decide to keep her belief, because people are angry at her for bad reasons.)

If we keep framing the problem as concern-for-truth vs concern-for-people, those whose comments get censored will have some justification for thinking that what they’re saying is true but not expressed in just the right way. Finding just the right way to express something is often not worth one’s time (as I’m discovering right now, realizing that I’ve spent over an hour fiddling with this comment). So they won’t have an incentive to try to find out why people react in a certain way to their speech, because on this view, those reactions are largely orthogonal to what’s true. But the problem isn’t concern-for-truth vs concern-for-people, it’s lack of concern for certain truths.Report

What the hell??
What the hell??
5 years ago

In the other thread Andy Metz commented that most everyone knows the graduate student’s name, and then fawned over how considerate it was of him and everyone else not to be using it here. I’d just like to call bullshit on that comment. All I’ll say is that if you know her name, you should be horrified that you do, and patting yourself on the back as if you’re some sort of magnanimously sparing contributor to healthy discourse is repugnant.Report

Yarma
Yarma
5 years ago

Justin, one gets the sense that you tend to moderate very closely on one side of issues, and not so closely on the other. How many feminist philosophers’ comments (or comments from those who agree with their ideology) have you not approved or censored? How many comments in support of “Anonymous” have you not approved or censored because they might be harmful to Kipnis or Ludlow?

Maybe if there were more disclosure — e.g., every so often you run a post with all the comments you deleted — people wouldn’t be so concerned.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

To Justin:

Postscript:
You: “How are you harmed, exactly?”
Her: “You’re doing it again.”

This is one of the core issues being discussed lately described above — asking for clarification about the harm being followed by the assertion THAT THE QUESTION ITSELF is harmful. There are many valid reasons to ask the question about harm. Here are two: 1) If I understand what I said harms you, I will be more likely to make sure I don’t say things to harm you. 2) Is the claim of harm a reasonable one? If it is, I am less likely to harm you. But the claim needs to be reasonable, and I don’t find the notion of merely raising the question as “harmful” as being a reasonable.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
5 years ago

Yarma: “Maybe if there were more disclosure — e.g., every so often you run a post with all the comments you deleted — people wouldn’t be so concerned.”

I don’t have a brief to defend Justin’s moderation policy, but if he runs a post with all the comments that were deleted, they wouldn’t be deleted any more. Which would rather defeat the purpose of deleting them in the first place.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

What the hell?? — I would love to give you a detailed response to call “bullshit” on what you said, but because Justin is so carefully “moderating” here, I have to be VERY careful what I say. I caught wind of this controversy about a week ago, and, in order to comment intelligently about the case, did a bit of research. I will not reveal keywords, but, even being naive about the case, it took me three clicks to find the name. I was not even looking for it as I really didn’t care to know (it really wasn’t relevant).

My comment was the even though her name is not really a secret, out of respect, we are treating it as being so. So, this comment: “All I’ll say is that if you know her name, you should be horrified that you do, and patting yourself on the back as if you’re some sort of magnanimously sparing contributor to healthy discourse is repugnant” is completely unwarranted, and I demand an apology!Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Yarma,

Just out of curiosity, are you suggesting that Justin is favoring Kipnis or Ludlow?Report

Groundskeeper
5 years ago

Suppose (perhaps due to some sort of psychological quirk) I’ve chosen to spend my time publicly commenting on a public blog, in which I and other persons speculate and argue about an alleged deep harm that has come to another actual person, including whether their claim to harm meets my standards of reasonability. Now suppose that person then tells me my having this kind of discussion harms them. According to Andy Metz, they have simply added to the number of things I feel morally entitled to publicly speculate and argue about. That is, until the person justifies their claims – presumably, by irrationally contributing to the very discussion the existence of which (they believe) harms them.

It seems to me, on the other hand, that unless I am under either moral or severe self-interested demands to sit at my computer and engage in these speculations and arguments on blogs and such, I ought to defer to and, in my behavior at least, respect the claim to harm.Report

soup
soup
5 years ago

Thanks for addressing this important matter for the blog, and for philosophical reflection more generally. I appreciate the first commentator’s idea that the right approach for a blog may be more toward kindness, though that isn’t entirely obvious. (Ultimately, it is best to take things case-by-case, of course.) Regardless, I suspect that the “conflict of duties” between kindness vs. clear/truthful writing is more often apparent than real. In many cases when kindness is compromised, I suspect it did not really need to be compromised…although finding the right approach can take more effort/patience than people generally have.

So perhaps part of the solution is just to strongly encourage more effort/patience, without sacrificing what one needs to say. (It may sound a bit trite, but I for one need constant reminding to be more mindful.)Report

Reductio
Reductio
5 years ago

Groundskeeper and others, I am harmed by any suggestion that anyone else has been harmed or may have been harmed. Please stop harming me.Report

Groundskeeper
5 years ago

Reductio’s claim to harm is neither sincere nor independently plausible, which are prerequisites to my principle above, typically unnecessary to state. On the contrary, the claim to be harmed by public speculation and argument about a deep prior harm that one believes to have come to oneself, is very likely sincere, and seems independently plausible (provided that the occurrence of the prior harm isn’t ruled out – but in many cases, even if it is, though that’s not applicable here).

It seems like neither Metz nor Reductio think it’s plausible that public speculation and argument about a deep harm that someone believes happened to them, is itself harmful to that person. Either that or they agree with me, but are simply under some as-of-yet unstated severe moral obligation or consideration of self-interest that normatively forces them to speculate and argue about this case on the Internet.Report

Silencio
Silencio
5 years ago

In that case, Groundskeeper, why don’t we just keep these gossipy things off the blogs entirely? It’s not a bad idea. The accusers and the accused are both liable to be harmed in significant ways. Careers, and sometimes lives, are ended over stuff like this. We should never have started talking about this crap on the blogs, or in other public fora, in the first place.

I’m not saying do nothing. If you’ve been wronged by people in the profession, report it to the proper authorities and let them do their work in confidence, as you’re supposed to. If you have strong reason to believe the proper authorities are not doing their job properly, then take steps to remedy the situation without dragging anyone — accuser or accused — into the mix.

Not only is the public discussion of these private affairs hurtful to the individuals involved, but it’s trashy and creates a bad impression of the discipline. I’ve had acquaintances from outside the discipline tell me that they advise female students not to take philosophy courses, purely because these acquaintances have read the garbage ‘journalism’ of people like a notorious Slate reporter. When we discuss private and confidential things on the blogs, they get into the news and ultimately filter down to the level where uninformed people like this reporter get hold of them and scare women out of taking philosophy degrees or supporting our work. So yeah, if you’re for stopping it all, I’m right there with you.Report

Anon Grad
Anon Grad
5 years ago

Groundskeep — I would just like to note that your “independently plausible” prerequisite sounds an awful lot like Andy Metz’s second question in comment 9. It seems that the very point he is making is that for merely asking a question of someone about what harms them to, itself, be harmful is not (at least prima facie) “independently plausible”. So, I guess you two agree despite your strong claims to the contrary?Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Groundskeeper — I certainly believe that individuals can feel harm related to the public discussion of issues that affect them. And, I don’t think that ANYTHING is fair game in terms of discussion. But there should be limits.Report

Yarma
Yarma
5 years ago

Wallace: I don’t know what Justin’s purpose is in deleting them, nor do you. But I can imagine many purposes that wouldn’t be defeated by deleting them in individual threads and collecting them in one big thread every so often. People could choose not to view them. They wouldn’t derail discussion. And I’m sure you can think of more.

Just because they can be found some other place on the internet doesn’t mean the purpose of deleting them in a particular thread is defeated.Report

Groundskeeper
5 years ago

Anon Grad:

Right – I thought I had highlighted exactly where we disagree. Metz thinks that public speculation and argument about a deep harm that someone believes happened to them is not plausibly harmful to that person.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Justin, I hope you know there are a lot of us out here who really appreciate you.Report

Yet Another Anon Grad Student
Yet Another Anon Grad Student
5 years ago

I imagine any discussion whatsoever of the case will be harmful to those involved, simply due to the fact that people publicly discussing an extremely painful and personal event in one’s life is itself painful and embarrassing, even if they are all expressing pity for you. Why should we assume that expressions of pity and being told that one is a fragile weak victim are any less harmful than people expressing skepticism about one’s complaint? Is there any evidence for this? Keeping that in mind, I wonder why in the world Justin would decide to discuss the case at all.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

The primary problem I have here is procedural. Whether the allegations in question are true or not, the mechanisms of justice (both civil and institutional) failed to find Ludlow guilty of anything except, as I understand it, retroactively violating a sexual harassment policy that was not in place at the time of its violation. And yet here we are, some of us anyway, taking it for granted that the allegations are true and marveling that yet another Middle-Aged Heterosexual White Male got away with it.

Except, Ludlow didn’t get away with anything. His career is in shambles, and irrespective of the final outcome of the various suits and investigations it is extremely unlikely he’ll ever teach at NU or anywhere in the US (perhaps anywhere in the world) again. His name is radioactive. Now, you could say that these are his just deserts for scamming on women half his age, whether he ever raped anyone or not, and you’d have a point. But he has not been hauled into court for scamming on women half his age, or in any case not merely for this. He has been hauled into court because of an alleged rape, which allegation is still–as a matter of law and civil and institutional procedure–unsubstantiated.

Now one could say: this is because our procedures or our laws are bad. Maybe this is correct; but I think it’s beside the point. Even if we made our laws and our procedures more friendly to accusers, false allegations would still happen. There would, accordingly, still need to be some way to sort through the truth of the matter (or the legal truth, which is not the same thing). The problem is that there is a subset of the most vocal critics of Kipnis who would have us treat any allegation of sexual assault as prima facie true. This strikes me as extremely dangerous and irresponsible. And it leads me to my concern with Justin’s moderation policy, which is that as I see it he has been allowing through comments that treat the allegations as prima facie true, and vaporizing comments that treat the allegations as prima facie neither true nor false.

I’m not here to cast doubt on the Ph.D. student’s version of events, and it is clear she has suffered greatly. My only point is that it appears as if the mere allegation of sexual assault, whether true or not, is supposed to be enough to ostracize the accused, even if he is not legally or procedurally found guilty of the allegation in question. Even if you completely believe the Ph.D. student, I think this is a dangerous and irresponsible position to hold.Report

Will Behun
Will Behun
Reply to  the Onion Man
5 years ago

@Onion Man: I really have to disagree that Justin is letting through some posts and not others based on standpoint. I’ve seen lots of posts reflecting both positions, and as someone who disagrees with Justin’s analysis of the issue, I think that he’s been exceptionally even handed. I’ve seen lots of comments that don’t take the accusations against Ludlow for granted, and recommend just the sort of agnosticism toward many of the facts of the case that you seem to suggest.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

@Will Behun

On the whole I agree that Justin has done a decent job, especially given that it is a thankless one-man job, but I have had several comments rejected for (I presume) evaluating the likelihood of the specific claim that Ludlow and the Ph.D. student had, at some point, been involved in a consensual romantic relationship. Justin responded to a question I had about his moderation policy on this issue by noting that he had “blocked or asked for revisions to some comments that have attributed certain unproven actions and attitudes to the person accused of rape.”

Fair enough, yet somehow I doubt that someone with the same conviction and fervor as (say) Nix 66, but writing in defense of Kipnis and/or Ludlow, would have had their comments posted. This may of course only reflect my own bias.Report

anon
anon
5 years ago

@the onion man re: “…failed to find Ludlow guilty of anything except, as I understand it, retroactively violating a sexual harassment policy that was not in place at the time of its violation”

I think you do not understand correctly. I take it the retroactive policy you have in mind is NU’s faculty/student dating prohibition. But, Ludlow was never found guilty of dating any student. He was found guilty of harassing two students. Presumably a great many details of what harassment was found have never been made public, since universities are not in the business of releasing the findings of those investigations. At any rate, I think we should not be so comfortable dismissing off-hand the seriousness of the university findings.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

@anon

I understand that Ludlow was found guilty of harassment, however my understanding of this finding is that the university changed its definition of “harassment” during or immediately subsequent to the proceedings against Ludlow, precisely because the policy had not considered faculty/student dating to ipso facto constitute harassment. It now does, de facto if not de jure (which might well be the case). This was, as I understand it, one of the primary points that Kipnis made in her original piece for CHE.

If someone can correct me here, however, please do so.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Anon said: “But, Ludlow was never found guilty of dating any student. He was found guilty of harassing two students. Presumably a great many details of what harassment was found have never been made public, since universities are not in the business of releasing the findings of those investigations.”

Have you seen those “details of what harassment was found?” Because, if not, then you are also engaging in speculation here.

The problem is that because Northwestern has provided very few details that what folks are learning about what Ludlow is guilty of is derived from interviews of those on one side of the case or another, or court filings, that, in one case, just reported Ludlow’s story.

Given that Northwestern did not immediately terminate Ludlow suggests that authorities found that whatever conduct he engaged in fell well short of rape (at least, one would hope — otherwise Northwestern is allowing a rapist to continue on its faculty). Ludlow’s announced punishment was being denied a raise and a named chair, having to go to harassment workshops, and not having contact with the complainants. Only after students threatened to disrupt his classes did Northwestern ask him not to teach.

[Note from Justin: According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Ludlow is facing a termination hearing next month. See here.]

I have no direct knowledge of what went on between Ludlow and the two accusers. And they are the only three who actually KNOW, given that there is no clear evidence (videos, eyewitnesses, etc.). But the rest of what we know stems from others’ JUDGMENTS as to the veracity of their stories — some who charged with making determinations of guilt v. innocence, others who are commenting on the participants, process and outcomes. Judgments are not facts. Ludlow can be judged as being guilty of harassment, but that does not necessarily mean he actually did it. It is that people have judged by what evidence they have that it is more likely than not that Ludlow engaged in harassing behavior.

I did not get involved here because of Ludlow’s guilt or innocence in terms of sexual harassment. What I have found to be repugnant is the charge that Ludlow is “retaliating” against the accusers because he has sued for defamation. How else is he supposed to regress what he perceives as a serious wrong done to his reputation? I also found the abuse of the Title IX process against Prof. Kipnis to be similarly repugnant.Report

anon
anon
5 years ago

NU changed their policy after the 2012 investigation to prohibit faculty/student dating. During the 2012 investigation, however, neither the undergrad not Ludlow contended that they were dating. So, the policy change had no bearing on that case, and came into effect before the 2014 investigation.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

Hi Justin; while on the whole I do think you’re doing a service here, it’s also pretty clear you’re biasing the conversation by selectively permitting what you do. And despite what you seem to be saying, that isn’t always in the interest of protecting the grad students from hurtful comments. I made the following remark on a thread a week or so ago, and the criticism here is clearly directed at the process of the Title IX investigation as defended by I haz JD/PhD, not the grad students who initiated that investigation:

“I haz JD/PhD at 1:32 lays the problem out nicely. First, we’re told to put aside the concepts of due process: they don’t apply here. That’s because these tribunals don’t operate as legal institutions, they’re something else. Then we’re reminded that the enforcement of Title IX has led to these tribunals because of a need to address structural power imbalances. That’s why standards of evidence are decreased, information is collected and processed by unorthodox means, judgments are arrived at by shadowy mechanisms, and little regard is given to principles of due process. Because remember, these aren’t legal institutions! They’re something else. Finally, we see a lament that people are focusing on the legal definitions for terms like ‘harassment’ and ‘retaliation’, definitions that have been working themselves out in the English language and common law for hundreds of years. But it’s okay, don’t you see, the Progressive Institutions of Title IX will give us new meanings for these terms!

In sum, it’s a defense of an extralegal system designed to lower the bar for determining guilt while relying on the fact that it is an extralegal system to justify abrogating standards that have long governed legal institutions of guilt and innocence.”Report

Ed Kazarian
Ed Kazarian
5 years ago

Worth, in this context (which is very different from the one in which it was originally coined), invoking John Protevi’s phrase the ‘universal seminar room’ as a name for the thing we want to avoid in forgetting the concrete, specific context of the discussions we’re having and how that context can frequently function in ways that make seminar-style conventions of ‘open, unrestricted discussion,’ etc., really inappropriate. (Also worth remembering that no seminar worth attending has ever occurred in the absence of a moderator who steers the discussion.)

For those unaware of John’s classic, it’s here: http://www.newappsblog.com/2012/02/in-defense-of-snark-or-breaking-down-the-walls-of-the-universal-seminar-room.htmlReport

DC
DC
5 years ago

I will point out that while I have been defending Kipnis (and to a smaller extent, Ludlow), I had a comment I made critical of Ludlow removed. So I do think Justin is legitimately trying to moderate with a light hand and not overtly favoring one side over the other, despite his obvious support of one side.Report

Andy Metz
Andy Metz
5 years ago

Justin noted that Peter Ludlow is facing a termination hearing. I should note that the punishment Northwestern handed down in 2014 was as described in my earlier post. The fact that Ludlow is now facing a termination hearing — which does not necessarily mean he will be terminated, BTW — is occurring after subsequent events, such as his being asked not to teach since the spring 2014 quarter (in part out of response to plans by protestors to disrupt his classes), and also because he has sued (to date unsuccessfully) the university.

It is also not clear from the CHE article on what grounds Northwestern is seeking termination. Had he violated provisions of his punishment, that’s one reason, though there have been no published indications he has. If it is because the environment is such that he can’t return to the classroom, that would be chilling, because it would mean if parties can protest loud enough, then you can be gotten rid of — even with tenure. A third possibility is that Ludlow engaged in retaliation by filing the lawsuits. That’s a fairly tenuous claim. Retaliation would have to require intent, and it is not clear that Northwestern can establish that Ludlow was intending to retaliate by filing the lawsuits. A good faith basis in believing that he was defamed should be sufficient to defeat that claim. There may be things that have emerged that only NU’s administration and Ludlow know about.

I imagine Ludlow will end up being terminated. Fairly or unfairly, the professor is “radioactive” — and is likely to faces protests if allowed to continue teaching. Plus, I am not sure that Northwestern is happy with being sued. I am sure that Northwestern would now like to cut ties with Ludlow.

I am not sure Northwestern feels it has any choice but to pursue this action given the present campus environment. All parties would be better off with the university reaching a quiet financial settlement with Ludlow with non-disclosure and non-disparagement agreements in place. That would prevent what is likely to happen — more lawsuits and more headlines, keeping this case alive for all parties, including Ludlow’s accusers.Report

FlowerPower
FlowerPower
5 years ago

Another question about censorship. What happened to the many comments that used to be on this page:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathryn-pogin/melodrama-notes-from-an-ongoing_b_6805676.html

They have all disappeared. Why? How?Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

FlowerPower, here’s a cached version of that page from a month ago which has no comments. http://web.archive.org/web/20150521164218/http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathryn-pogin/melodrama-notes-from-an-ongoing_b_6805676.html

Comments do not disappear when they did not exist.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago

Anonymous, first of all, the archive.org system does not cache comments.

Second, it is true that Kathryn Pogin’s piece never had any comments; presumably they were disabled for that article.

However, Lauren Leydon-Hardy’s piece (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathryn-pogin/melodrama-notes-from-an-ongoing_b_6805676.html) had 65 comments, and the counter still shows 65 comments, but they appear to be invisible. I read them and they were universally critical of her stance, even the comments written by self-described feminists.

I’m running Chrome on Windows 7 so I doubt this is a technical issue, but if someone else can see the comments please say so.Report

the Onion Man
the Onion Man
5 years ago
FlowerPower
FlowerPower
5 years ago

Anonymous (36): You don’t see the comments on archive.org because archive.org doesn’t make copies of the comments on any page of Huffington Post, for some obscure technical reason that I don’t pretend to understand.

Try the experiment on some other page, and please let us know the results.Report

Justanotherprof
Justanotherprof
5 years ago

The missing comments on the Leydon-Hardy piece are interesting for another reason — one was by Kipnis’s faculty support person who was later charged with a Title IX violation. It was referenced in the anonymous letter from one of Kipnis’s accusers who said they initially decided against filing retaliation charges based on that HuffPo comment.Report

Coherentist
Coherentist
5 years ago

There were never comments on Pogin’s piece (you can see this on her author page). As to the other comments, on pieces posted through HuffPo blogger, comments are often (always?) only visible for a limited period of time. So, it’s not that interesting.Report

FlowerPower
FlowerPower
5 years ago

The Onion Man is right: Kathryn Pogin’s piece didn’t have comments. It was Lauren Leydon-Hardy’s piece that had comments that have now mysteriously disappeared.

The takeaway from all this: If you don’t want to be in a hostile environment, don’t post online.Report