Should You Continue To Teach The Work of Sexual Harassers?

Thomas Pogge, whose alleged extracurricular activities, including sexual harassment, have been the subject of numerous posts here, is having his own place in the curriculum questioned. Pogge retains, for now, a prestigious named professorship at Yale. An article at Inside Higher Ed this morning discusses whether professors who believe he has acted at least problematically unprofessionally (of which there are many) should take matters into their own hands. 

The article notes the offer of academic assistance to current and recent students of Pogge’s as an example of such action. Also, there are those who say that they won’t participate in academic events planned to include him. A good chunk of the article concerns whether professors should stop teaching Pogge’s work. Yet it is not clear how much of controversy there is over this. Of the philosophy professors interviewed for the article, only James Sterba (Notre Dame) is quoted as possibly suggesting that Pogge’s behavior is a good enough reason for not teaching his work (I say “possibly” because Sterba seems to think this because Pogge’s work isn’t sufficiently important). (Sterba’s comments were the subject of discussion in a post at Leiter Reports last month.)

I could see how, if you were on the fence about whether to teach Pogge, the allegations of sexual harassment could reasonably push you off. After all, there is no shortage of written material by others on global justice, Rawls, and other topics he has written on. But if you had already judged his work to be worth teaching, I don’t think these allegations give you reason to remove his work from your syllabi. This is not for evidentiary concerns, but because doing so would be, as I’m quoted in the IHE article saying, antiphilosophical.

The whole article is here.

I am surprised that there hasn’t been more discussion of how academics should treat Yale University in regards to how it has handled the allegations of sexual harassment, including Pogge’s hiring, its attempt to buy the silence of Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, its failure to hear the complaints of some of Pogge’s alleged victims, and so on.


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