Open Letter Regarding Thomas Pogge (a few updates)


Over 160 academics have signed an open letter regarding the allegations of sexual harassment and professional misconduct of Thomas Pogge, Leitner Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Political Science at Yale University, including at least 16 of his colleagues at Yale.

The letter reads:

We, the undersigned, are writing in the wake of the recent reports of allegations against the Leitner Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Political Science at Yale, Thomas Pogge, to express our opposition to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in higher education. Such behavior undermines efforts to create an inclusive and respectful climate for education and research.

Allegations against Pogge contained in a federal civil rights complaint were recently reported in BuzzFeed News and subsequently independently reviewed by the Huffington Post.[1],[2] According to those who have reviewed the complaint, it includes dozens of pages of supporting documents alleging that Pogge has engaged in a long-term pattern of discriminatory conduct, including unwanted sexual advances, quid pro quo offers of letters of recommendation and other perks, employment retaliation in response to charges of sexual misconduct, and sexual assault. Included in the complaint are affidavits from former colleagues at Columbia University,[3] who attest that Pogge was accused of sexual harassment by a student in his department, and disciplined for this.[4],[5] In the wake of the recent reports, at least one other allegation has surfaced.[6] All of the public allegations to date have been made by women of color.[7]

In his public response, Pogge has addressed allegations by only one claimant, suggesting that she has financial motives for pursuing her case. In an attempt to provide support for his point, he selectively (and without permission) appended the personal emails of the complainant, his former undergraduate thesis student.[8] These emails in no way support the intimation of extortion.[9]

We hope that investigation of the civil rights complaint will shed further light on this matter. But bringing the complaint to resolution will be a long and complex process focused more on Yale’s handling of these claims, rather than on the specific allegations against Pogge. Meanwhile, the academic community must make its own decision about how to respond in light of what has been made public. We write, then, to express our belief that the information now in the public domain—including that provided by Pogge himself in the aforementioned email correspondence—suffices to demonstrate that Pogge has engaged in behavior that violates the norms of appropriate professional conduct. Nothing is more important to our philosophical community than the trust he has betrayed. Based on the information that has been made public, we strongly condemn his harmful actions toward women, most notably women of color, and the entire academic community.

You can add your name to the letter here.

UPDATE:

Related items —

UPDATE 2 (6/21/16):

What did those at Yale involved in hiring Pogge know? From an article at Yale Daily News:

When asked whether sexual misconduct allegations were brought to his attention during the recruitment of Pogge, Kagan demurred, saying it was not his place to confirm or deny the allegations. Kagan added that had accusations against Pogge been brought to his attention, he would have discussed them with the administration.

So instead of saying “¬P,” Kagan says “P→Q.” That’s rather roundabout.

Another item from that article:

According to the Yale College Programs of Study, which was released on June 16, Pogge is currently slated to teach two classes in the fall and two in the spring.

UPDATE 3 (6/22/16):

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Thomas Pogge

Thomas Pogge

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stingray
stingray
5 years ago

“But bringing the complaint to resolution will be a long and complex process focused more on Yale’s handling of these claims, rather than on the specific allegations against Pogge.” Long is an understatement. A recent Huffington Post article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/title-ix-investigations-sexual-harassment_us_575f4b0ee4b053d433061b3d) described complainants who have been waiting for — literally — years just to hear whether the Office for Civil Rights will even investigate their complaint.Report

Effie
Effie
5 years ago

Thank you, signatories — because of you, the Yale University administration can no longer refuse to comment on this serious, pervasive issue.Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
5 years ago

Many thanks to all those who signed. I’m saddened by the fact that this was necessary, and that getting to this point has required the courage of so many victims, informants, and activists, all of whom have made significant sacrifices and will receive nothing in return. Public shunning is a last resort, to be used in cases in which the formal university channels fail — in this case, due to technicalities about the boundaries of jurisdiction, and perhaps also due to a lack of will. We’re lucky to live in a time and place in which free speech is an option.Report

Philomena
Philomena
5 years ago

As a woman, I know how rare it is to see a harasser’s colleagues rally behind the victim. It’s the opposite of what happened in the case of Colin McGinn. These 160 who signed are brave to have done so, and have renewed my hope that this world doesn’t have to stay as hostile as I’ve always known it to be.

I’m moved to tears. This is amazing.Report

Octopus
Octopus
Reply to  Philomena
5 years ago

Yes, thanks so much to the letter writers and the initial signers. I’ve just added my own signature (looks like it might take a couple days for new sigs to be updated, per the info provided after I signed). I would encourage anyone interested in sending a strong message on SH to consider doing the same.Report

activist
activist
Reply to  Octopus
5 years ago

The signatures from this morning are up.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
5 years ago

For all of those who have signed, I’ve been asked to send thanks from two women who left philosophy after dealing with sexual misconduct — it’s deeply appreciated.Report

Jenny Saul
Jenny Saul
5 years ago

It is indeed heartening for philosophers to speak up en masse in this way. But, importantly, this is NOT the opposite of what happened in the McGinn case: https://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/letter-from-concerned-philosophers/Report

Philomena
Philomena
Reply to  Jenny Saul
5 years ago

I was referring to this. I took it from the suit Monica Morrison filed against the University of Miami. In this case, notable academics bought into the libelous and misogynistic narrative McGinn and his pals were spreading.

In April 2013, Defendant McGINN wrote open letters denying his harassment of Plaintiff and sent them to prominent philosophers around the United States, encouraging them to write to the University to protest his removal from campus. At a minimum, he sent letters to Philosophy Professors Steven Schiffer (New York University), Stephen Neale (City University of New York), Oliver Sacks (Columbia University), Steven Pinker (Harvard University), Saul Kripke (Princeton University), Esa Saareen (Aalto University), as well as to members of the Defendant University faculty and Robert Silvers, Editor at the New York Review of Books.

In these letters, Defendant McGINN included Plaintiff’s full name and selections of her personal communications.

In response, Defendant McGINN received letters of support from his friends and colleagues, to whom he had sent the letters, supporting and offering to help him based on the false information he provided them with about his relationship with Plaintiff and her complaint.

One letter, sent by Mr. Sacks (published by Defendant McGINN on his blog on July 9, 2013), stated that “wrongs have been committed against Professor McGinn and these wrongs should be rectified.”

A letter from Mr. Saareen on July 10, 2013 stated “if not reversed, the dismissal of Colin McGinn will set a landmark for unfairness that is likely to become historic.”

A letter from Prof. Stephen Neale of City University of New York and Prof. Stephen Schiffer of New York University dated May 5, 2013 stated that “Colin McGinn may be being made to suffer a grave injustice by the University of Miami.”

On April 19, 2013 Defendant ERWIN called a Philosophy Department faculty meeting for the purposes of discussing, what he characterized as “rumors” circulating around Defendant McGINN’s resignation. He stated at this meeting, as if it were categorical fact that he personally knew to be true, that Plaintiff and Defendant McGINN had been in a consensual romantic relationship and that Defendant McGINN had been harmed by rumors to the contrary. During this meeting Defendant ERWIN named the Plaintiff and presented an extremely distorted version of the Plaintiff’s official complaint against Defendant McGINN: attributing false motives to the Plaintiff for making such the complaint (implying that it was motivated by a disagreement about incomplete research work the Plaintiff was paid to do for Defendant McGINN); and asserting a romantic and consensual relationship between Plaintiff and Defendant McGINN. Critically, Defendant ERWIN falsely asserted that Plaintiff had never made any complaint of sexual harassment against Defendant McGINN. This is not true.

Dr. Thomasson, who is effectively the only female member of faculty in the Philosophy Department, in whom Plaintiff had first confided in September 2012, when she made her sexual harassment complaint against Defendant McGINN to the EA, challenged these assertions by Defendant ERWIN, including the assertion that no allegations of sexual harassment had been made against Defendant McGINN.

In response, Defendant ERWIN told Defendant McGINN about Dr Thomasson’s challenge to his false version of the “facts.” McGINN then sent Dr Thomasson an email on April 20, 2013, threatening to bring legal action against her on knowingly false grounds, stating: I understand that you yesterday repeatedly asserted that I sexually harassed a student, by requesting a sexual favor in an email. This is demonstrably false. Let me remind you that slander is a crime, and I will consider taking legal action against you if you persist in these slanderous statements.Report

Jenny Saul
Jenny Saul
Reply to  Philomena
5 years ago

I think it’s super important to emphasise that McGinn’s supporters in the profession were and are in a tiny minority. The way he tried to recruit defenders was ghastly. But it really has not worked.Report

Philomena
Philomena
Reply to  Jenny Saul
5 years ago

Thank goodness it has not worked as he hoped 🙂

You may know this, but I hope not from experience: when a victim is in the throes of being defamed by her harasser and facing institutional betrayal, even negative anonymous comments can be an enormous burden. I reported my own rape to the police, and I had to deal with some really awful comments from the person I spoke with. Now I’m imagining if it were not just some bureaucrat, but also Oliver freakin’ Sacks who were saying such awful things about me. I might have ended up doing severe harm to myself.

I don’t want to discount your point, and your extremely welcome voice of optimism, nor do I want to suggest that allies didn’t do enough. I just wanted to explain why that particular case came to mind when reading this letter.Report

Jonathan Light
Jonathan Light
Reply to  Jenny Saul
5 years ago

Not sure what evidence you have for his supporters being in a tiny minority, past or present. Seems like a wildly unsubstantiated claim.Report

Monique Deveaux
Monique Deveaux
5 years ago

This Open Letter is being called Philosophy’s Geoffrey Marcy moment, which seems apt: http://digressionsnimpressions.typepad.com
The hope is that the current initiative will have a similar outcome as in the Marcy case: resignation, or at a minimum, immediate investigation by Yale. And also that it will signal to our peers that sexual harassment holds consequences for the harassers, not just the victims — even if the procedures around it are still inadequate.Report

no props for this
no props for this
5 years ago

“These 160 who signed are brave to have done so”

Props to the young women who stood up to him. They paid a very real price. Zero props for letting it get to this point. Zero props for piling on a wounded animal, years later, after it’s clear how things will play out socially. Zero props for turning right back around and cashing in your fem cred with someone just like him, but better at it. I’ll wait for the next young woman stand up, since you have established that it will be them, and not you, that pays the price for this sort of thing.

This might make them feel better, . . . supported. That’s good. I’m sure they appreciate it. But, all credit to them and none to you.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  no props for this
5 years ago

I agree with you the students are brave, and they are the one’s who are carrying the brunt of the burden by far — but I also think if we’re going to do better as a community going forward, it’s important to understand all of the dynamics of the problems, and one of those dynamics is that faculty who advocate for students are retaliated against. And so, I do think those who signed are doing something significant, meaningful, and important, and it’s not merely because the students involved in this case appreciate it — even if it’s also true we should have done better earlier. E.g., http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/17/university-of-oregon-retaliation_n_5499877.html, http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2015/3/13/theidon-files-lawsuit-tenure/, etc.Report

Kristina Meshelski
Kristina Meshelski
Reply to  no props for this
5 years ago

What is “fem cred” and how does one cash it in?Report

Octopus
Octopus
Reply to  Kristina Meshelski
5 years ago

I suspect what they were referring to are those people who do the feminist thing when there’s momentum and when theres little risk in doing so, and then use this feminist cred earned to distract from the fact that they are silent when it comes to the wrongdoings of others they’re professionally or personally close to.

On this note, i know of at least two popular, mid career philosophers offhand who have reputations as harassers. They’re both charismatic and well liked. I’m supposing others have first hand knowledge of some of the allegations, but I have a hard time believing either of these will soon be outed, even if the allegations are true and corrobable. I suspect they both have too many buddies in their corner for that to happen anytime soon. Including some who decry harassment when philosophers they aren’t friends w are those accused.Report

Neil Sinhababu
Reply to  no props for this
5 years ago

I suspect that some of us are signing the letter in part because of bad things we saw happen at previous times in our careers, when we didn’t have the power to stop them. Perhaps by showing support for the many accusers in this case, we can help the discipline build a consensus that will help to address these problems. I don’t want to pretend that I have any of the courage of the women who came forward here. It just seems that with signing the petition, there is a very slight chance of helping to alleviate a terrible problem, and no comparable risk of doing any harm.Report

Effie
Effie
Reply to  Neil Sinhababu
5 years ago

You “suspect” that the harm will be greater than the risk. Have you met any of the Yale survivors?

I didn’t think so.

Thanks.Report

Paul Prescott
Paul Prescott
Reply to  no props for this
5 years ago

I’m sympathetic to some of what I hear ‘no props’ saying. But it seems to me that a number of characterizations are being employed that are descriptively inaccurate. For example, someone who is abusing others doesn’t become a “wounded animal” when publicly recognized and called to account. Rather, that person remains a person who is abusing others. (Perpetrators remain perpetrators, and do not become victims when bystanders call them to account.) Similarly, calling such a person to account does not entail laying claim to “props,” “credit,” or some other social status. And collectively taking public action is not “piling on.”

All this strikes me as straightforward, even if – as ‘no props’ rightly points out – it never should have been allowed to get to this point, and action on multiple fronts is long overdue.Report

Rana Dray
Rana Dray
5 years ago

Katie J.M. Baker, in the article Ethics and the Eye of the Beholder raises two questions that are as she states “more, well, philosophical. Can someone fight tirelessly to balance the inequities of global power while at the same time abusing his own power? And can a discipline built on the quest to describe a just society — and suffering from a major diversity problem — afford to ignore these issues?”
The answers seem obvious: Yes, many can and do reconcile just ideas and unjust behavior and this has been practiced for centuries. A more interesting question for me is HOW they reconcile the two. And yes, quite obviously, the discipline built on the quest to describe a just society has afforded to ignore these issues just as the Catholic Church has been able to afford to ignore the sexual abuse committed by Catholic clergy for decades.
As to my interest in this story: Just like Pogge “I made a remarkable discovery. I found out that the country into which I had been born had, a few years earlier, unleashed a horrendous war on its neighbors and, during this war, had interned, enslaved and murdered on imaginatively many Jewish and other civilians in camps.” Just like Pogge, “every adult I knew had played a part in these events, in one way or another.” Difficult discoveries that have haunted my generation in Germany. In addition to discovering my country’s role in the holocaust, as a girl, I discovered that family members can love you and at the same time sexually abuse you. Pogge suggests in his writings that our viewpoint is shaped by whether we are on the winning of losing side. Can this answer my “how can they reconcile” question above? That as men, as “winners” here, abusing men plainly don’t see the injustice inherent in their sexual coercion? Pogge, referring to the crime against the poor writes, about the “monumental deception we are visiting upon ourselves and our children to cover up this crime”. Has he explained how people reconcile just ideas about inequality and their abuse of it? Nothing to reconcile if you deceive yourself about your role.
Here is another question that haunts me reading about Pogge: What is “the tireless fight to balance the inequities of global power”, or for that matter, the “transcendental insights” of a Zen master such as Joshu Sasaki worth if that/those come from someone abusing his power? Haven’t Pogge and Sasaki, for example, engendered real positive change for many more people than the fifty or so women they supposedly harmed? Or have the Catholic priests, the Pogges and Sasakis made our world worse by demonstrating that even “one of the world’s most prominent ethicists” or “one of the most influential and charismatic Zen masters in America” can’t live up to their own standards?
I am not a philosopher. I would love to hear what you in that world think or if you could point me to articles helping me understand.
*Pogge quotes are from his general introduction to Politics as usual: What lies behind the pro-poor rhetoric (2010), Buzzfeed quotes from https://www.buzzfeed.com/katiejmbaker/yale-ethics-professor?utm_term=.vh5eZRAKX#.drrwW6AYz (2016), and information about Sasaki from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/05/us/joshu-sasaki-a-zen-master-tarnished-by-abuse-claims-dies-at-107.html?_r=0 (2014).Report

Effie
Effie
Reply to  Rana Dray
5 years ago

It is impossible to survive this, to transcend beyond all the boundaries – even the best-laid ones. There is life beyond all the betrayal, and the loss.

This is an opportunity. Virginia Woolf, a profoundly sensitive spirit, once said – and apologies for my 2016 revisions and amendments -: “The eyes of others [can become our] prisons; their thoughts our cages.” But we are never, really ever, trapped. We have left the cage. <3Report

Effie
Effie
Reply to  Effie
5 years ago

This is why instead of surviving, we must plainly live – even if it may require acting against a world run amok.Report

Philomena
Philomena
Reply to  Rana Dray
5 years ago

I have often wished I could quiz Nabokov on this passage from Lolita, written by Humbert Humbert (Lolita’s abuser) years after the events of the novel as he wastes away in a hospital. They are either the most or least sincere lines in Humbert’s narrative, and just as soon as I convince myself one way, I’m so perplexed by the idea that I start again to want to believe the other.

“Unless it can be proven to me—to me as I am now, today, with my heart and my beard, and my putrefaction—that, in the infinite run it does not matter a jot that a North American girl child named Dolores Haze had been deprived of her childhood by a maniac, unless this can be proven (and if it can, life is a joke) I see nothing for the treatment of my misery but the melancholy and very local palliative of articulate art.”

When I’m feeling brave, I ponder the nature of the predator. Pogge’s played the system to gain access to his targets. The only way these questions make sense to me is to think that Pogge’s insights into global affairs happen because he was able to extrapolate from a microcosm, not the other way around. I think men (and women) like him well understand what they are doing, and use that knowledge to their advantage.

The other thing to remember is that the greatest thing that differs a predator like Pogge from more notorious predators with more (there is no good word to use here…) outrageous crimes, like Bundy or Manson, is how much smarter he is than they are. Manson developed a philosophy and way of teaching that gathered around him quite a Family. He took sexual advantage of the young women he took in–he let the misogyny of a socially turbulent era drive runaway girls right into his hands to use as he pleased. Now, Pogge has a far more brilliant mind; he can do actual philosophy. But just because he writes it doesn’t mean he means it–I guess I mean that while he genuinely discerns the phenomena he describes, the ethics and morality may be crafted to fit a certain mold, like HH’s strange lines above may have been. Ted Bundy operated a suicide hotline for a while and was very good at it. Just because someone doesn’t care about right and wrong doesn’t mean they can’t recognize it, or at least discern how people generally react to the realities they encounter. The devil can quote scripture to suit his purposes, to use a comfortingly oversimplified aphorism.

(NB- I’m not a philosopher either. I’m a social worker with a background in literature and psychology.)Report

Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Heidi Howkins Lockwood
Reply to  Rana Dray
5 years ago

Thanks for offering these beautiful, complex thoughts and reflections, Rana. I don’t understand Pogge’s thought that whether one is on the “winning” or “losing” side shapes one’s viewpoint. (Can there be any winners or losers after something like the Holocaust? Are there even clearly defined sides? Cataclysmic communal violence is such a shifting, multifaceted thing.) But *your* thought that gender can affect one’s experiences as the heir of communal, shared trauma certainly resonates with me.

In response to your question about how to reconcile the sexual abuses committed by the Catholic priests, the Pogges, and the Sasakis with their messages of peace, global justice, equity, and harmony, there are two questions here, at least in my mind.

The first is the question of how the abusers themselves have achieved mental whole-ness, i.e., how they have managed to reconcile their disparate actions and words. On the one hand I want to say that there are some acts which are impossible to reconcile — for which no justification exists. The worst of what Pogge has done falls into that category. On the other hand, the deeply empathetic, feminine part of me wants to try to understand, perhaps in an effort to make the world more predictable.

So, how does Pogge reconcile his own actions? He sent an email to a student who criticized him for using lies and deception as a form of coercion to persuade students to have sex with him, in which his response to her criticism — presumably his own attempt to reconcile — was, “You have an advanced case of the occupational disease of self-righteousness which affects many ethicists and preachers: you make strong moral judgments of others that far outstrip your understanding. And it’s especially scary because your eclectic choice of moral rules is untempered by any effort on your part to try them on for size.” (Fwiw: this same brilliant student noticed the striking similarity between Pogge’s response and the response of Martin Vanger, a fictional serial killer and rapist in one of Steig Larsson’s books who remarks to a victim, “My actions aren’t socially acceptable, but my crime is first and foremost against the conventions of society… You with your bourgeoisie conventions would never grasp this.”)

In other words, there is at least some evidence that Pogge uses the plasticity of moral philosophy as a tool for internal reconciliation. Although I don’t have evidence for this, I would add that — perhaps — this is possible because he is bereft of the terra firma provided by inherited values and norms. Without an underlying principle, it’s easy to become a moral opportunist, to use the arguments of one moral philosopher or another to conveniently justify just about any behavior. All actions can be “reconciled” for philosophers who have no external set of principles or values — which just means that the concept of reconciliation itself is meaningless in this context. I’m not comfortable calling the opportunistic use of moral theories “reconciliation.”

The second and imho more interesting question is the question of how and whether we, as individuals, colleagues, survivors, and community, can reconcile Pogge’s disparate actions and words. In this context, reconciliation means not to justify or explain, but rather to exercise agency and autonomy, which can be a painful process. In particular, it means to acknowledge and accept our own role as passive enablers of the problem, and to re-construct the moral fabric so that we — as individuals and community — no longer overtly or covertly validate systemic problems. It means to “move from despair to hope, from radical and disability distrust to trust and engagement, and thus from impotence to effective agency,” as Alisa Carse and Lynne Tirrell explain in their wonderful article “Forgiving Grave Wrongs,” in which they argue that repair in the wake of traumatic violence involves “world-building.” (http://faculty.www.umb.edu/lynne.tirrell/Research_files/Ati%2066%2003%20-%20Alisa%20L.%20Carse%20and%20Lynne%20Tirrell.pdf)

Reconcilation also means — and this is where the media coverage, the blogs, and the open letter are all important — for victims to be able to give voice to their loss, betrayal, and complex experiences, and to know that the community as a whole validates and is trying to understand the badness of what they have endured. Perhaps most importantly, it requires that victims receive validation and respect from those who have wronged them.

In other words, whether we, as individuals, colleagues, survivors, and community, can reconcile Pogge’s actions depends on whether he is capable of listening, understanding, publicly validating, and respecting those he has wronged. I’m far from optimistic based on his public statements and behavior over the past several weeks — but I suppose one can hope. After all, certain types of amphibians are known to be remarkably sensitive to changes in the environment.Report

Phoenix, son of Amyntor
Phoenix, son of Amyntor
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
5 years ago

Philomena and Lockwood:

I am grateful for your thoughtful and nuanced reflections about the mindset of predators. Setting aside those who commit child abuse (a psychology I do not understand), I wonder if the mindset of predators like McGinn, Pogge, and Sasaki is fairly simple: I suspect that they believe themselves to be an incredible gift to women. As a result, they find it inconceivable that a woman could say “No.” Indeed, they might even find it offensive in the same way any of us would be offended to have a gift rejected. With this perverse mindset, these predators easily become indignant when we question them or accuse them of wrong-doing. How dare we question their gift?

If I am right in my hypothesis, I do not think (sadly) that we can persuade these predators to recognize their wrong-doings. The best we can hope for is to squeeze them out of the profession.Report

Rana Dray
Rana Dray
Reply to  Heidi Howkins Lockwood
5 years ago

What a fantastic essay the Forgiving Grave Wrongs! Thank you very much for your post and this reference.Report

angrygradstudent
angrygradstudent
5 years ago

I’m very glad for this gesture of resistance and support from the philosophical community.
However I’m wondering just what it takes for us to ‘comfortably’ speak out about this issue. Is there a threshold of credibility in terms of the number of brave women that have to speak out before we hear them? Pogge’s case has attracted attention I think because of the sheer number of women feeling empowered to speak out following the courage of a few, such that it simply can no longer simply be swept under the carpet. Reading the comments on various articles covering the issue, it is clear that it has been known by many for some time that Pogge abuses his power to harass women (predominantly, of colour) graduate students, and that the same is something of an ‘open secret’ with regard to many other Professors. This really does disgust me. Where is the integrity of those, particularly those with power in the community, who do not use their power to speak out against this, before it reaches a level where it simply cannot be ignored?
So while I am heartened to see so many esteemed academics speak out now, I worry about where they are when it is most crucial. When a young graduate student who has been sexually harassed and is ashamed and afraid to tell other faculty members what has happened to her. When they suspect a Professor is harassing a student but they don’t follow it up. When they know a fellow faculty member is abusing his power but they don’t speak out. When they put their interests in conformity and security, before the interests of the wronged and less powerful. Where are they then?Report

PhilStudent
PhilStudent
5 years ago

I don’t know enough to comment on this HOWEVER I think many others may also be commenting without knowing what has happened. Please see “Fantastic Lies” on Netflix. I’m not trying to defend Pogge, but we may not be doing justice by simply villyfying him either.Report

Greg Frost-Arnold
Greg Frost-Arnold
Reply to  PhilStudent
5 years ago

I think there are many important relevant disanalogies between what “Fantastic Lies” depicts as happening in the 2006 Duke Lacrosse case and what is now publicly known about Pogge’s behavior. Most importantly, people had strong incentives to accuse the Duke lacrosse players: D. A. Mike Nifong wanted to win an election in a district with a large number of people of color, and Crystal Mangum wanted to keep her children after being picked up by the police. In the public record about Pogge, I can’t see any analogous incentives for the women who have stepped forward to accuse him.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  PhilStudent
5 years ago

PhilStudent, I don’t know what you know, but I know that there is evidence sufficient for knowledge of Pogge’s guilt in the public forum. Given your self-admitted ignorance, perhaps the ting to do is to learn what’s out there instead of calling for everyone else to suspend judgement on the matter along with you, no matter what they know, because the rape accusation in an altogether difference case was false. Shirking the burden of judgement by choosing not to avail yourself of the available evidence is the epitome of intellectual laziness, no?Report

Philomena
Philomena
Reply to  PhilStudent
5 years ago

I know what has happened, because I have met some of Pogge’s victims. And I am grateful to those who have chosen to believe those it happened to, despite never having met them.

“To remain neutral is to take the side of the oppressor. When an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, the mouse does not appreciate your neutrality.” –Desmond TutuReport

Octopus
Octopus
5 years ago

So pleased to see over 400 signatures now (including the original signers).

If you have not signed yet, please know that your taking a stand on this issue still carries enormous weight. The more people sign this, the more it will become difficult for Yale to ignore. It may even influence whether the Office of Civil Rights decides to continue with the recent complaint. And beyond Yale and the specific, recent complaints, the more philosophers who come out against this, the more victims of sexual harassment will feel supported by the discipline.

So, if you’re on the fence about whether to sign, or have been busy and just haven’t gotten around to it yet, please don’t think the issue’s taken care of. Don’t let others speak for you. We need your voice as well.Report

Someone else's victim
Someone else's victim
5 years ago

Octopus wrote: “And beyond Yale and the specific, recent complaints, the more philosophers who come out against this, the more victims of sexual harassment will feel supported by the discipline.”

Let’s see how far this goes. Which brave signatory (or anyone else) is willing to decipher what No Props seem to be saying in the last nine words of this sentence:

“Zero props for turning right back around and cashing in your fem cred with someone just like him, but better at it.”Report

Octopus
Octopus
Reply to  Someone else's victim
5 years ago

Well, I’m trying to muster up a bit of optimism about what this letter might mean for sexual harassment in general. Maybe I’m misguided there, but even if I am, I think this recent, specific complaint is worth supporting. Aguilar has already worked so hard. The least she deserves is our support.

But, judging by your name, it seems likely that you have very good grounds to be pessimistic about the prospects for general reform. I respect that, and I concede that you might very well having more insight about this than I do (I should say, I am a woman in philosophy, and I have been sexually harassed, though in a relatively “minor” way. Certainly, it had a negative impact on me and made me reconsider whether I should forge ahead in this profession, but it wasn’t anywhere near as devastating as what Aguilar faced. In particular, it did not involve sexual assault, nor did it involve a trusted advisor).

I don’t know what else we can do except work on cases that come to our attention. But perhaps that’s not enough. Do we need a speak-out, where every (willing) woman who has been harassed shared her story? A survey of sexual harassment, to convince the discipline of how utterly pervasive the problem is? I would venture to guess that most women in the discipline have faced some form of harassment, from sexualizing comments to rape. Do we need to circulate information about suspected harassers? Often, this information is not first-hand, so I’m worried about charges of defamation, etc., but perhaps this information could be circulated in a more ad hoc, private way, not splashed on the internet but among activists who can use the information in decisions about who to invite for conferences, who to hire, etc.

Easy answers seem really evasive here, but I’m very open to any proposal, from you or anyone, if it comes from a genuine desire for reform. For now, I’m just signing the online letter and encouraging others to do the same.I know it’s not much, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment.Report

Effie
Effie
5 years ago

How dare he drag the late Berta Caceres into this? Even if only for psychological intimidation….you do not drag Berta Caceres into this. He is not even worth the ground she walked on, to this day. Thomas Pogge just posted this on Twitter. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/21/berta-caceres-name-honduran-military-hitlist-former-soldier?utm.Report