Hypatia’s Editor And Its Board President Defend Publication of Tuvel Article


“I firmly believe, and this belief will not waver, that it is utterly inappropriate for editors to repudiate an article they have accepted for publication… Editors must stand behind the authors of accepted papers. This is where I stand. Professor Tuvel’s paper went through the peer review process and was accepted by the reviewers and me.”

Those are the words of Sally Scholz (Villanova University), Editor of Hypatia, in regards to “In Defense of Transracialism,” the article by Rebecca Tuvel (Rhodes College) that the journal recently published, to great controversy. They are part of a statement which Professor Scholz sent to The Chronicle of Higher Education, which reads in full:

As Editor of an academic journal that espouses pluralism and diversity, I believe that Hypatia should publish on a wide array of topics employing a wide array of methodologies.  I believe that a community of scholars should contest concepts and engage in dialogue within the pages of the journal to advance our collective project of educating—students and ourselves.  I believe that an academic journal is not a blog or a discussion board.

I firmly believe, and this belief will not waver, that it is utterly inappropriate for editors to repudiate an article they have accepted for publication (barring issues of plagiarism or falsification of data).  In this respect, editors must stand behind the authors of accepted papers.  That is where I stand.  Professor Tuvel’s paper went through the peer review process and was accepted by the reviewers and by me.

The Associate Editorial board acted independently in drafting and posting their statement.  That board is a policy board and plays no role in the day to day management of the Journal. 

Since April 30, I have been working with the publisher, Wiley, to respond responsibly and appropriately. We have consulted with the corporation which owns Hypatia and, together, we are proceeding to refer the situation to Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) for guidance.

The Chronicle reports that Miriam Solomon (Temple University), president of the board of directors of Hypatia Inc.,

echoed Ms. Scholz’s disavowal. The apology did not represent the views of Hypatia’s editor, its local editorial advisers, or its editorial board, she said. “The associate editors are speaking for themselves. She cited several concerns about how the statement arose. She was worried that it had not been clear to readers that the statement did not represent the views of the entire Hypatia editorial system. (Indeed, many observers either congratulated or condemned the journal after the Facebook statement appeared.) She also said she was aware that the post “was produced in a rush, in response to outcry on social media,” which she described as a “new challenge for the community… Everything seems terribly urgent, and people feel like they have to make a response right away,” she said…

“I imagine that we’ll settle this very collaboratively, but a lot of careers are at stake,” said Ms. Solomon. “I’m very concerned about doing the right thing.” She said she was concerned not only about the careers of those embroiled in the controversy but also about the reputation of Hypatia, which is widely regarded as the pre-eminent publication in its field. “I’d like to minimize the damage, and I would not like the message to go out there that only certain kinds of feminist work are welcome,” she said. “Hypatia has always been as pluralist as possible,” she said.

Asked what message she would like to send to academics upset at the publication of Ms. Tuvel’s article, Ms. Solomon said she wanted to assure people that the issue “would not be swept under the carpet.”

“I hope we can learn a lot from it,” she said. “I see a lot of passion in the people who found the article offensive, and I want to take the time to understand it and see what might help.”

As Professor Tuvel had announced, the reference to Caitlyn Jenner’s former name will be removed from her article. There is no plan in place to retract the article.

The original post here at Daily Nous on the controversy has been regularly updated with a list of commentary on it. The Chronicle article quoted above is here.

“School of Athens” (detail) by Raphael

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David Wallace
David Wallace
4 years ago

This is to the great credit of Sally Scholz and Hypatia, both in substance and in tone.Report

Sikander
Sikander
4 years ago

This is good news.Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
4 years ago

This is to the great credit of Schulz and Solomon, but I wouldn’t say it is to the great credit of Hypatia. At least not yet. The associate editors spoke en masse, and I’m not sure that is fully countered by the statements of Schulz and Solomon, especially given the silence of the rest of the editorial staff. But it is obviously a step in the right direction. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Professor Plum
4 years ago

Well, the referent of “Hypatia” is not entirely clear: as I recall (though the relevant post is no longer public) Cressida Heyes described the Associate Editors’ response as the “official” response, but it looks as if she may not have had standing to do that.

As far as I can make out (I’d welcome input from the better-informed), the Editor is responsible for editorial decisions; the Associate Editors’ Board gives input on policy and selects the next Editor. So I *think* where this has got to is: be reassured about Hypatia’s current adherence to academic standards; pay close attention to who the next editor is.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
4 years ago

Minor correction, sorry: it was Asta Kristjana Sveinsdottir (another Associate Editor), not Cressida Heyes, who called the original Hypatia response the “official response”, and it was here at Daily Nous (in the comment thread for the original Hypatia post), not on Facebook.Report

Ollie
Ollie
Reply to  David Wallace
4 years ago

This horse may have already bolted from the stable. From
http://hypatiaphilosophy.org/Editorial/

“Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy is seeking an editor or an editorial team to serve a term of five years, beginning July 1, 2018. The journal issues a call for nominations for editor(s) every five years in order to consider new proposals and directions for the journal, and to give others a chance to be involved. All proposals will be judged on their merits. We encourage self-nominations as well as nominations of others. Self-nominations and nominations of others are due no later than March 1, 2017.

“After reviewing the nominations, the search committee will invite a subset of nominated editors or editorial teams to submit initial applications, which will then be due by May 1, 2017. These initial applications will be reviewed and a subset of applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal. The full proposals must be sent by October 1, 2017.

“Editorial Search Committee: Kim Q. Hall, Ann Cahill, Karen Jones, and George Yancy”

It is mathematically just barely possible that none of the Editorial Search Committee members (all Associate Editors) are among the majority “official response” of Associate Editors who joined Heyes and Sveinsdottir in denouncing Tuvel. Just barely.
6/10>50% ; 10-6=4Report

informa
informa
Reply to  Ollie
4 years ago

“It is mathematically just barely possible that none of the Editorial Search Committee members (all Associate Editors) are among the majority “official response” of Associate Editors who joined Heyes and Sveinsdottir in denouncing Tuvel. Just barely.”

There’s a version floating around the internet with signatories still on; if it is accurate then none of those Associate Editors signed on.Report

informa
informa
Reply to  informa
4 years ago

Oops, I mixed up the open letter with the FB letter of apology, please ignore.Report

SFSU_MA
SFSU_MA
4 years ago

Am I mistaken in the impression that Profs. Scholz and Solomon’s views here, and stated plans moving forward, can argubly be considered merely the next rational step in the journal’s response to the publicity surrounding the controversy, with a more immediate apology (from the associate editors) addressing the open letter’s requests with politic pathos (committing no action to retraction beyond that of deliberation) followed now by an equally persuasive condemnation of such an idea? The retraction, I’d thought, wasn’t the particular issue in the apology, but the far-too-often quite inhumane outry against Dr. Tuvel. It seems to me like Prof. Scholz continues this, in speaking more to all of us engaged in the spectacle than anyone else.Report

Udo Schuklenk
Udo Schuklenk
4 years ago

Professor Scholz is moving to re-establish editorial professionalism at the journal. Can’t fault her response. If the appointment of her successor is up to the members of the current associate editors… oh well, a lesson in how to destroy a journal reputation in a week. Should be fun to watch what the COPE review will conclude. Report

Jessica
Jessica
4 years ago

I think this is a really good statement from the editor. Among the lessons learned from this episode is, I hope, the importance of having reviewers and boards that reflect the diversity of a journal’s audience. I would guess that a transgender and/or reviewer or board member of color might have noticed the issues with this article. Granted the difficulty in our field of finding such reviewers (and reviewers in general), perhaps one could offer a review by a non-philosopher member of the marginalized group for questions of contemporary nomenclature and inadvertent bias. So-called “sensitivity readers” who can help identify internalized bias are now common for fiction writers. There are loads of potential pitfalls to mind, including the danger of censure, the potential exploitation of such readers, enshrining the notion that one member of a marginalized group speaks for all members, etc., but, perhaps offering a sensitivity review as a option to authors could help head off some of the problems the paper manifested, which the author herself wishes she had known to avoid. Report

Tom
Tom
4 years ago

I feel like they should have called out the blatant misrepresentations and malice way more harshly. It’s nice that they don’t join in the chorus, but I feel like if they can do more to defend the author, the article and their editorial choice at least against the worst and most uninformed attacks that it faces en masse.

But maybe they still might do that in time.Report

Karsten
Karsten
4 years ago

I congratulate the editor of Hypatia for her statement. This, I think, goes a long way of reestablishing the academic credibility of the journal. It might be good though for the future to establish clearer lines of communication within the journal. It should be made clear that in those situations it is the editor who speaks for the journal, as she is responsible for ultimately accepting articles based on the reader’s responses. It also would have allowed for more time of deliberation within the journal and an ultimately more measured response. (If one cannot live with those self-imposed restraints one needs to resign as Associate Editor). The existence of such mere procedural rules of communication certainly would have been beneficial for everybody involved and the the philosophical community at large. Report

Peter Alward
Peter Alward
4 years ago

One thing that’s important to note about this response is that editor took the time to consult with the publisher and other stakeholders in the journal — in order “to respond responsibly and appropriately” — rather than getting caught up in a social media frenzy. Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  Peter Alward
4 years ago

This, a hundred times this.Report

syed ali
4 years ago

As an editor, I found Hypatia’s editor’s response slow and weak. She let Tuvel twist in the wind, and this letter hardly stands up for her. So my co-editor and I wrote about it. https://contexts.org/articles/we-own-it/Report

syed ali
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
4 years ago

She took a week for what? To support (but not really) and author whose article she approved then published? Sometimes you slow down to think it through. This isn’t one of them. It’s unacceptable she let Tuvel be an open, unsupported target without coming out and saying she approved the article and backs her and if there’s any criticism to be had, it’s of the editor. (That’s what we do at Contexts.) If you publish it, you support it unequivocally. Period. Report

Professor Plum
Professor Plum
Reply to  syed ali
4 years ago

Yeah, while I don’t think I’d criticize Scholz for her response time (it is the end of the semester, and who knows what else she has going on in her life), I find the idea that she should be praised for taking her time to respond wrongheaded. She is not, from what I can tell, making a statement on behalf of Hypatia; she is making a statement on behalf of herself qua editor. As Syed suggests, I think it was immediately obvious how an editor should respond. This case brings to the fore a number of complicated philosophical and sociological issues, but how a journal editor should respond to calls to retract a publication for the reasons cited is not a complicated issue that requires lots of time to mull over. To claim that it is is to misrepresent the values at stake. Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  Professor Plum
4 years ago

Doesn’t taking your time mean exactly that: Not rushing to put something out based on what you find “immediately obvious”?

Report

Viriginia
Viriginia
Reply to  syed ali
4 years ago

Odd that the book you tell us to read in your post,Trans, seems to have some of the problems Tuvel’s article was alleged to have e.g. deadnaming. Funny that no one seems to have called for its retraction – maybe because it’s Princeton University Press and a senior faculty member?Report

Tom Hurka
Tom Hurka
4 years ago

Sally Scholz’s statement just makes explicit what was already apparent: the Associate Editors’ “apology” slammed not only Rebecca Tuvel but also Prof. Scholz, for accepting the Tuvel article. She too has been publicly denigrated.

Will there now be a power struggle at Hypatia, the Associate Editors trying to remove Prof. Scholz — for accepting the offending article — and Prof. Scholz and the Board (as represented by Miriam Solomon) trying to remove the Associate Editors — for their unprofessional, uncollegial conduct. If so, this will be an internal matter, but outsiders can root for Prof. Scholz’s side.Report

Seth Edenbaum
4 years ago

Philosophy is an intellectual bubble economy. That’s why so many people who are not professional philosophers found the article absurd, and why it’s understandable they think they same of the responses, on both sides in the profession. First the article itself:
A group of mostly white people consider the possibility that a white person can can choose to become black, and that their own self-definition can be primary.
Will the ex-white person be able to apply for programs under affirmative action? The parallel is a group of Israeli philosophers deciding that immigrant Jews can “become” Palestinians. In both cases the opinions of those previously seen as black or Palestinian are rendered irrelevant by the “objective analysis” or whatever other buzzwords you want to you of certified academics.
Compare Dolezal to Eminem. She lied; Eminem never claimed to to be black. He earned the respect of his black peers, or of those who told him he was in fact a peer. The acceptance was not his to judge. That’s the key. He as an “other” to blacks was accepted by those who were his “other”. Mix-raced people and Caster Semenya, born intersex, are a different matter entirely.

A hypothetical: A high school football player decides he identifies as a transgender male identified lesbian. He, now she, changes nothing about her dress or behavior, and sues under title IX because there are no urinals in the girls bathroom. And what about abortion? Are we to accept at face value the pro-life opinions of a transgender woman, as a woman? And why are transgender rights have so much support while abortion has less?

https://paisleycurrah.com/2016/04/26/feminism-gender-pluralism-and-gender-neutrality-maybe-its-time-to-bring-back-the-binary/
“In the last decade, movements for transgender equality appear to have advanced with astonishing speed, while other issues of concern to women’s movements have largely stalled, either making little progress (equal pay) or suffering real setbacks (abortion access). From policy reforms to public opinion trends, it seems that the situation has changed faster, and in a more positive direction, for trans people than for women.”

The examples above are repeated from a comment I posted here:
http://induecourse.ca/how-can-we-accept-the-transgendered-but-not-the-transracial/#comment-41306
Not hypotheticals (links are at the comment): A transman who refuses to be searched by the TSA and refuses to remove the prosthesis in his pants; a transwoman (functionally male) who refuses to be searched by a man but whom female TSA workers refuse to touch. Both are traumatized by having to face contradictions they don’t want to face.

Any legal scholar will recognize the dangers of subjectivism written as law. But this is result of the endless best intentions/collaborative model of philosophical discourse.
The end result of claiming “to see the other in myself” is the denial of the existence of the other. “We should all be able to resolve our conflicts among ourselves.” Those outside our (professional) borders don’t matter. “We are the enlightened ones.” That’s the logic of Zionism, and so many other disastrous ideologies. You deny that real adversarialism is necessary, that outsiders will always be the ones who affect real change. The civil right movement began with railway porters. Feminism was led first by debutantes and then by housewives. You treat the history of amateurism with as much contempt as Israelis have for Palestinians. The politics is reactionary.

Report

Seth Edenbaum
4 years ago

affect/effect.
Feh.Report

Wendy Donner
Wendy Donner
4 years ago

An excellent positive development. I am not surprised, since Sally is a person of great integrity and intelligence. So sorry that she is caught in the middle of this shambles.Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
4 years ago

I suspect it is difficult to avoid evaluating the position outlined by Scholz mainly in light of one’s take on the particular article in question. But obviously a larger principle is being asserted. She maintains that quite generally editors must never disavow a paper that went through proper procedure and was published. That strikes me as a mistake. There are obvious cases of plagiarism or fraud that I am sure we all agree about. But beyond that I would think one should not shut the door on the possibility that a paper that passed the procedural test to make it into a journal turns out to be badly mistaken, fails to cite highly relevant literature, etc. Perhaps it is a bit obscure what it means for editors to “stand behind” a paper that they published. But if it means denying that the paper is badly mistaken and that it was a mistake to publish it, then I think the Scholz statement is overstated.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  David Sobel
4 years ago

David, what Scholz says is “it is utterly inappropriate for editors to repudiate an article they have accepted for publication… Editors must stand behind the authors of accepted papers.” This is compatible with the possibility of retracting papers as long as retracting a paper revokes their status as “accepted for publication”. But leaving aside retracted papers, I think the statement is correct as it stands. It would be indeed inappropriate for an editor to repudiate a paper that is being considered for retraction before there is a final verdict on the issue. And this seems to me all the more obvious when there are no grounds for retraction, but it is simply the case that the editor thinks the paper is badly mistaken or that the scholarship was shoddy. As an editor, one must expect that from time to time, papers will be published that should have been rejected. But it’s not the job of the editor to single out a paper that she concluded was not good enough and publicly pronounce on its inadequacy on behalf of the journal. I guess a journal could have an explicit policy of re-examining papers every year, or at the request of concerned readers. However, if this were the case, it should be part of the journal’s editorial policy and authors should be aware of it before they submit their papers to the journal.

But I think you are taking “stand behind” as something much stronger than not repudiating. However, I didn’t think it meant more than resisting a public outcry to condemn the paper (and thereby vilify its author), and reasserting that the paper was deemed to merit publication by the journal, that it underwent a rigorous review, etc.
Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
Reply to  Sergio Tenenbaum
4 years ago

I’m not yet sure if we disagree. Certainly if there is a process that is ongoing to determine if a paper should be retracted I would think it best to wait until that process has concluded to speak publicly about the paper. But I don’t have in mind possible retraction type cases. Suppose the paper is a logic paper and it makes a complicated mistake that invalidates the entire argument. Someone points out the mistake that the referees missed. I do not think it would be inappropriate for an editor to say publicly that the journal made a mistake in publishing that paper. Obviously there would be no rationale in this case to excoriate the paper or wring one’s hands about the horribleness of publishing it. This is all quite different from responding to a public outcry which perhaps requires different treatment. Again, I think we are much too hung up on the case before us than the general principle.Report

Ben
Ben
Reply to  David Sobel
4 years ago

Prof Scholz mentioned “plagiarism” and “falsification of data” as reasons for repudiating accepted papers. Had she thought about logic papers, I am sure she would have added “mathematical errors”, or something similar, to her list.

Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
Reply to  Ben
4 years ago

Ben,

Thanks, I wonder if others agree. If so, I wonder about the weight placed on the distinction between clear errors of reasoning in matters of math or logic vs. clear errors that are of a different nature. Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  David Sobel
4 years ago

My understanding is that in math/logic papers people often publish corrections to their papers, or contact the author to say they found a flaw in the proof. Even here I am not seeing the need for the editor to come out in public and repudiate the paper or anything like this. But, I really don’t disagree that it’s hard to discuss the general principle outside this context. Any philosopher worth their salt can come up with a counterexample to the principle if we assume that it can never be defeated or overridden (millions of people’s lives will be spared if the editor repudiates the paper; all puppies will be killed if the editor stands behind the paper). Doubtless there is an implicit background assumption here that nothing in this case justifies thinking that this is one of these rare possible exceptions. Report

Mark
4 years ago

I salute Dr. Tuvel’s courage and in the hopes of furthering the possibility of a convergence of experiences, point out an artless from 1957 that — in some way — covers the same ground. Yes, Mailer’s The White negro in Dissent. . .https://www.dissentmagazine.org/online_articles/the-white-negro-fall-1957.

We are one.
Report

Greg Gauthier
4 years ago

Welcome to the wild-west frontier of twitter-facebook outrage politics, Hypatia.

FWIW, I think the idea of “transratialism” is amazing, because it demands that the theory of social construction be made consistent and universal. If I can be any gender I want without reference to my biology, then why *can’t* I be any race I want (and if Tumblr has anything to say about it, why can’t I be any *species* I want)? Carry the concept to the most reductio absurdity possible, and see what it gets you. Who knows, maybe something good will come of it? For example, If we could get all black people to identify as white, we wouldn’t need any special programs for discrimination at all. Since white is the default.

In any case, it’s definitely heartening to see the editors standing their ground against the fluttering swarm of moral starlings in social media. Good on them!Report

Jonathan
Jonathan
4 years ago

“Fear of doing harm. Some of the behavior lately derided as speech policing (e.g., among those protesting the Hypatia article) emerges from a desire not to inflict harm on others and a willingness to take seriously people’s testimonies about what harms.”

So the bully gets to be the one with pure motives, not harming anyone? The attacker becomes the poor fearful one. No. Just no. I don’t think that this behavior stems from a fear at all, and to cast it this way is twisted. Report

jake stone
jake stone
4 years ago

Those that defend the retraction are using a straw man argument. They are criticizing the article as ill-informed or offensive (to some).
Those who condemn the conduct surrounding the retraction are not arguing those points. They are saying that personal attack and bully gaggles reminiscent of a fourth grade schoolyard are unacceptible EVEN IF you object to the paper.

I, however, find the substantive objections exceedingly narrow and ethnocentric, reducing racial identity to skin colour in a multicultural society. I am white. I have lived 10 years in Asia, I have lived my entire adult life in Asian communities. I speak Mandarin at home. in my day I spoke four Asian languages fluently and two sufficiently for travel. All my friends are Asian. The kids I have seen grow up and who came to our seasonal festivals every year are all Asian. I cook Chinese and Korean and some pretty decent Thai. I eat rice every day. But if I were to say I identify as Asian, I would be a fraud. If a third gen American with one Asian parent and no cultural connection to Asia claims to be Asian, then they are Asian.

Now the point isn’t whether or not I am Asian. The point is whether the self-inflated gaggle of Hypatia editors have any say in this matter. It is for my friends and my wife to decide this. That’s it.Report

Paul E Sheldon
4 years ago

Thanks, Sally, for your support of open discussion and debate of all modes of thought. In particular, I believe that this article represents a fascinating and valuable concept for discussion. Report