APA Issues Code of Conduct


The American Philosophical Association (APA) has published a Code of Conduct. You can find it here.

I’m off to a meeting but may have time for a more detailed post about it later today.

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Carnap
Carnap
4 years ago

I just don’t know. . . .
Seems to me that some of this, while well-intentioned, is likely to provide further ammunition to institutions who would seek to discipline and punish certain philosophers. “See, even your professional organization, requires that you maintain ‘a classroom environment in which all students—particularly students from disenfranchised groups—*feel* welcome and supported’ and that you ‘respect the philosophical *opinions* of others.'” I try my damnedest to treat my students with respect but am I at fault if they feel unsupported? Must I respect, in addition to my students, their philosophical opinions?Report

Chris Stephens
Chris Stephens
Reply to  Carnap
4 years ago

I have similar questions. I get that we should respect our students, but do we have to respect their philosophical opinions? It depends I suppose on how “without disparaging those who hold positions at odds with one’s own” is operationalized. If one of my students holds what I think is an odious view, beyond the pale – e.g., white supremacy – what does it mean that I have to respect their opinion? Am I allowed to dismiss it, and treat it without respect? or can dismissing such opinions as not worth discussing in my class still count as “respecting their philosophical opinions”? Am I allowed to mock such positions? etc.Report

Philosopher
Philosopher
Reply to  Chris Stephens
4 years ago

I’m worried that Stephens and ‘Carnap’ haven’t put a lot of thought into their comments. Before anyone hops on the anti-APA-code-of-conduct bandwagon, let’s try and be charitable!

The code of conduct states: maintain a [classroom environment] where students feel welcome and supported. The key subject is classroom environment, not the students. If you’ve got a bunch of philosophically tutored male students, for example, who snark or unfairly dismiss or chuckle when a female, underrepresented minority, or international student speak their mind, I really hope that you as a professor will somehow express disappointment in that behavior and thus discourage. I use the example because it’s paradigmatic in philosophy classrooms.

The code of conduct states: respect philosophical opinions. Now, this isn’t too hard. You can whine, “but what if their views are odious?!” The answer is obvious: treat the odious views with the respect they deserve, i.e. by giving a philosophically strong argument against it, revealing that the view betrays commitments to other odious positions, and then just leave it at that. Don’t call the student a bigot in an obviously irked tone.

Do learn how to be socially competent, though, and you’ll notice that codes of conduct are rather difficult to infringe.Report

Carnap
Carnap
Reply to  Philosopher
4 years ago

Philosopher writes
“The key subject is the classroom environment, not the students.” I am not sure what this could mean as the environment one allegedly ought to maintain is precisely one in which “*all students . . . FEEL welcome and supported.*”
I agree that one should strive to maintain a classroom in which students are welcome and treated with respect. The concern had (partially) to do with defining the obligation in terms of (possibly unreasonable) feelings (and the murky notion of “support”). Charity should not be much required when it comes to codes of conduct.Report

Philosopher
Philosopher
Reply to  Carnap
4 years ago

Hi,

The code of conduct states, and I quote, “maintain a classroom environment where students feel welcome and supported.”

In other words, the charitable reading is: the classroom environment shouldn’t be hostile, not that you should make the students feel fuzzy inside.

Best,

Someone who actually read the code of conduct.Report

Doc F Emeritus
Doc F Emeritus
Reply to  Carnap
4 years ago

There are some feelings and beliefs of students that we must confront and raise questions about – in other words, open to discussion and debate. That we all, even us philosophers, sometimes feel uncomfortable defending our beliefs, this is what philosophy and philosophy classrooms should be doing. If such a challenge or questioning is done with care and respect, rather than being aggressive and confrontational (and we all know we philosophers can be such — conference papers and questions can be dicey, can’t they?), and above all remember that our students are students, not our peers or philosophers, then this is what we ought to be doing. The phrasing about ‘feelings’ is fuzzy and essentially meaningless when it comes to drawing regulations. A student might “feel” Hitler was right — we challenge that and her feelings are hurt — do we back off? I’d hope the guidelines could be more precise and direct and eliminate fuzzy feelings language. Questioning student beliefs and feelings respectfully is what we do, disrespect, bullying, denigrating, and such we ought not do and should be castigated for. Tighten the language, please.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
4 years ago

“At the same time, the APA recognizes that professional philosophers do not simply, in the words of the AAUP statement, “seek and state the truth as they see it.” Philosophers may have responsibilities for research, teaching, and service as defined by their respective institutions. Their responsibilities in teaching are broader than exercising their own academic freedom and protecting that of their students. Professional philosophical activities can include undergraduate advising, the supervising and mentorship of graduate students, and the hiring and review of faculty colleagues. They also encompass interactions with colleagues in a variety of contexts, including academic meetings and conferences. These activities also extend to informal, social settings that offer valuable opportunities for interaction with students and peers.”

well, I don’t have any intentions of being in academia but this more or less mandates I act as if I am. guess I’m never joining APA. it’s been fun.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
4 years ago

How does that statement mandate that you act as if you are in academia? After all, it is talking about the obligations of professional philosophers — a category that you don’t belong to, since you are not in academia.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Ben
4 years ago

“a category that you don’t belong to, since you are not in academia.”

there you go. you said it better than I could: the qualifications for “professional philosopher” are as much about institutional participation (“being in academia”) than they are philosophy produced.Report

Dale Miller
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
4 years ago

I think that ‘professional’ here has to be understood to refer to how you earn a living. In principle an independent scholar could still earn her living through her philosophical work, but this isn’t common. What I’d stress is that no one is denying that someone might be an excellent philosopher without being a ‘professional’ in this sense.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Dale Miller
4 years ago

saying that someone could earn their living through independent philosophy scholarship is somewhat not the point because who, exactly, would pay for their work? probably no one, unless they sold popular books, but that’s not “being an independent scholar” and they’d be labeled “pop-philosopher.” would existing philosophers who are *not* the most influential of the century even be able to support themselves off of their philosophical scholarship alone, were it up to sales and not funded by some institution? I doubt it. the reality is that the only people who are going to earn a living through “philosophy scholarship” are philosophers at institutions because those institutions will have endowments or government funding to pay for it. and most of those institutions don’t even know what it is exactly they’re paying for anyway, they just broadly fund the philosophy departments because it’d be a bad stigma not to. otherwise, pretty much no one would pay for philosophy.

“What I’d stress is that no one is denying that someone might be an excellent philosopher without being a ‘professional’ in this sense.”

well, I hope so, but usually that’s exactly what is the case with this sort of thing.

take, for example, this screenshot of a wikipedia talkpage (highlight mine): http://i.imgur.com/2VPGtDN.png

here, the editors clearly insist you have some kind of academic credential to have the title, and that’s more or less what is demanded by the field. philosophy is incredibly insular, moreso than other fields, and does not make any allowances for people to have the title who do not have academic involvement. *that* is a problem, and the one I am saying the APA definition somewhat exacerbates here.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
4 years ago

Yes, to be eligible to be a member of the APA, you must be either someone currently employed teaching or researching philosophy in an institutional setting, an emeritus professor who has been a long-time member in good standing, someone who is “competent to teach the subject at the college or university level” (i.e., someone with at least a MA), or someone “whose achievements in philosophy are sufficient to warrant affiliation with the APA.” But that has nothing to do with the new code of conduct, which only reflects the fact that this has always been the case.Report

JT
JT
Reply to  JT
4 years ago

Sorry, I forgot students currently studying philosophy in an institutional setting are also eligible.Report

Doc F Emeritus
Doc F Emeritus
Reply to  Alfred MacDonald
4 years ago

Not quite sure why you responded. Can’t tell if you teach despite not being in APA. That’s fine, one can eschew the APA and be a fine teacher. But I cannot tell from your post if you are teaching. If not, then why the comments? if you are teaching, then offer some practical advice, comments, or criticisms of the policy. I take your comments as sort of off-topic. The issue is classroom behavior and your comments address mostly other than classroom duties of professors. I am seeing a disconnect here.Report

Alfred MacDonald
Alfred MacDonald
Reply to  Doc F Emeritus
4 years ago

are you really not sure?

the clear thesis of my comments here is against the insularity of the title of ‘philosopher’ due to the definition of ‘philosopher’ posed by the most prominent philosophical association that exists. “philosopher” should be hardly limited to someone who teaches philosophy or is affiliated with a university, but since the APA is the most prominent philosophical association, that’s overwhelmingly how this is framed and it –will not be otherwise– if the title is always thought of this way.

for a discipline so concerned with institutionalization of anything, a discipline that goes so far as to use ‘she’ as a pronoun to reduce stereotypes, I’d think that this same group of people would want to make more of an effort in making the discipline less grafted to the institutional structure of a university.Report

Arthur Greeves
Arthur Greeves
4 years ago

The bullying and harassment policy does not seem to exclusively protect SJWs, which is an improvement over previous incarnations of the policy. I think it is too restrictive. But at least I am happy that it is not picking and choosing which views we shouldn’t bully people about.Report

Carl Gillett
Carl Gillett
4 years ago

With the Code of Conduct, I am rather disappointed on procedural grounds with the APA for two reasons.
First, was this code of conduct circulated to all of the membership for feedback and comment before it was adopted? If it was, then I missed that and I do apologize. If it wasn’t, then I am surprised and disappointed. Something this substantive really needs widespread consideration and input before it is proposed. I imagine such a document might be fruitfully revised to speak to concerns raised by the membership on the variety of very fine-grained issues on which the Code takes stands.
Second, I think there is a very real argument that we should have a vote by the membership on whether to adopt any Code of Conduct for our profession and this Code of Conduct in particular. Again, if there was such a vote, I apologize for missing it and withdraw my concern.
I should also note that both steps would increase the efficacy, and legitimacy, of any Code of Conduct. (BTW I am a member of the APA, but I do not read every email I get from them… I would guess I am a fairly typical member in that regard.)Report

42
42
4 years ago

I wonder if I am an exception but I find this code of conduct utterly obvious. These are all basic obligations of interpersonal ethics and professional ethics. They are not complied with by quite a few people. However, it is hard to quibble with such things as

Treating others fairly, equitably, and with dignity;
Respecting the philosophical opinions and traditions of others, without disparaging those who hold positions at odds with one’s own;
Maintaining integrity and trust in all professional commitments and interactions; and
Recognizing that power and seniority do not offer reasons for being inattentive to the values just mentioned.

I don’t even think we have to resort to moral theory. Basic manners require we don’t disparage people, treat them unfairly, violate trust, and so on.

It states a bunch of obvious things that we expect well-socialized cooperative members of society not to do to each other. It also enjoins us to avoid a variety of actions prohibited by law.

Well, yeah.

One reason for not putting it out to members is that there is such a contentious atmosphere in philosophy at the moment that even getting a fundamental and basic set of incredibly obvious guidelines might be impossible in our fractious discipline.

I’m sure it could be revised. Perhaps it will be if compelling arguments are made. But I can’t see what is objectionable in it.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  42
4 years ago

“One reason for not putting it out to members is that there is such a contentious atmosphere in philosophy at the moment that even getting a fundamental and basic set of incredibly obvious guidelines might be impossible in our fractious discipline.”

One reason not to send it for comment to APA members is that APA members are likely to say things critical of it?Report

Lenin & Friends
Lenin & Friends
Reply to  Andrew
4 years ago

Paternalism is very very bad… Unless we’re trying to institute what we consider a progressive agenda *that we just know is the right thing*. In such cases, it would be counter-productive to let those we intend to impose on have a say. If they complain about what we paternalistically implement behind closed doors, they’re clearly just on the wrong side of morality and history.

Sarcasm aside, I think it is agreeable that we ought to foster atmospheres of respect in our classroom. However, I’m not sure if we all agree on what that entails. Moreover, this seems like a great way for the APA to force their agenda on people by condemning them in the name of (their own interpretation of) the code of conduct they’ve put forth seemingly behind closed doors.

Whether or not I agree with their conception of what they wrote means, I find it really oily (to put it mildly) that they took it upon themselves to write this up without communal input.Report

Joe
Joe
4 years ago

Very disappointed that there is nothing on faculty’s primary professional responsibilities towards their graduate students: actually reading and discussing graduate student work with them, via text commentary or in person. I know a couple of grads on the market whose letter-writers simply haven’t written anything yet, as job deadlines continue to fly past us at alarming rates. I know grads who can’t get their primary supervisor to read or comment on their work at all. Such stories have been common in academia for a long time, and I’m astounded that syllabi-construction is prioritized over this kind of basic responsibility. I certainly hope that it is not what it appears to be: faculty with grad students are comparatively powerful, tend to be tenured, and won’t sign on for a code which asks them, in effect, to do their job.

(And yes, I know for a fact that the APA committee was made aware of these issues well in advance. They have deliberately chosen not to include this kind of neglect in their code.)Report

philgrad
philgrad
4 years ago

I think this has been discussed, but I’m a bit surprised about the phrasing on nondiscrimination and hiring:
“and it is not inconsistent with the APA’s position against discrimination to adopt religious affiliation as a criterion in graduate admissions or employment policies when this is directly related to the school’s religious affiliation or purpose, so long as these policies are made known to members of the philosophical community and so long as the criteria for such religious affiliation do not discriminate against persons according to the other attributes listed in this statement.”

If I’m reading this right this means that if a school wants to hire only Christians and they consider homosexual activity inconsistent with practicing Christianity, they may not advertise on philjobs, even if they’d be prepared to hire celibate homosexuals (I take that to be the standard view among intellectual conservative Christians that while sexual attraction may be innate and unchangeable, following Christianity requires abstinence). That’s because the nondiscrimination statement specifically states that sexual conduct expressive of sexual orientation is to be expected. The hiring practice I have in mind might be comparable to a catholic seminary wanting to hire someone who is a priest and requiring the candidate to be male and celibate because those are two religious requirements for the job. I take it both of these would be disallowed by these rules.

In that sense these rules do tell religious institutions what their religion may and may not restrict. It is, for example, a perfectly consistent view to think that following a particular religion has requirements to restrict behavior that are not justified on any external grounds or non-religious moral principles (beards, head coverings, abstinence, rest days, etc.) while defending the civil liberties of non-adherents to engage in these activities free from governmental prosecution. (I.e. one could politically defend homosexual civil marriage and oppose sodomy laws while encouraging in-group members that agree to follow a particular religion to abstain from extra heterosexual marital sex; Defending gender non-discrimination for all public positions and defending civil rights of persons who do not identify with the gender binary while holding to normative binary gender roles within the particular religion.)

Was it really necessary to draw the line for who gets to advertised on philjobs on the side where religiously internal restrictions of sexual expression are on the verboten side of things?

Also, as I take there to be a not insignificant number of institutions who are now forbidden from advertising on philjobs, where can candidates who are not opposed to teaching at such places find their job listings?Report

Glaucon
Glaucon
4 years ago

That kind of blog thou may’st from me withhold
When pseudonyms, or anonyms, do hang
Upon those posts which shake against the trolled,
Bare unsigned comments, on which no moderators sprang.
In some thou find’st believers in the sobriquet,
Who welcome ideas namelesly expressed,
Which this code of conduct looks on with dismay.
— A cyber second self, what’s there to detest?
In me thou see’st one who would enquire,
Has the APA bid good sense good-bye,
If its code of conduct is a purifier
Of noms de plume which some have flourished by?
This thou condemnest, which makes me stop, dumbstruck:
Avoidable anonymity? Seriously; what the fuck?Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Glaucon
4 years ago

Saying anonymous posting should be used judiciously is condemning it?Report

Glaucon
Glaucon
4 years ago

I don’t think it’s, always the case that in saying something should be used judiciously one thereby condemns it. But in a normative context, saying so does at the very least cast suspicion on the practice in question. And this part of the policy suggests — to me, anyway — that there’s something morally suspect about posting anonymously, hence there’s a presumption against it.

I take it that the first bullet point in that section — “In a professional setting, it’s best to avoid ad hominem arguments and personal attacks, especially if they amount to slander, libel, and/or sexual harassment” — condemns ad hominems and personal attacks. That the bullet point in question — “While sometimes unavoidable, anonymity in online posts should be used judiciously” — could be re-written in the language of the first without significantly changing its meaning: “it’s best to avoid posting anonymously…” suggests a similar condemnatory attitude. Maybe people think that — clearly, enough of the authors of the code thought so — but it’s beyond me while this would fall within the scope of a code of professional conduct, since it implies that someone who posts anonymously as a matter of course is somehow acting unprofessionally in so doing.Report

Kathryn Pogin
Kathryn Pogin
Reply to  Glaucon
4 years ago

Ok, I can see why you’d read it that way but that’s not how I’m reading it because if it’s best to avoid X, then it isn’t the case (normatively speaking) that X is sometimes unavoidable. I would think, too, that given principles of charity, that ad hominem is obviously very different from use of anonymity, that the authors chose different language, and that that language doesn’t include phrasing like “likewise…” we should read the encouragement to be judicious in its totally ordinary sense of encouraging us to do so thoughtfully or with care, rather than read in a condemnatory implicature.Report