University Reprimands Students Who Warned Others About Philosophy Professor


Two seniors at Fordham University have been officially reprimanded by the school for violating its code of conduct after warning other students about a professor who in the past had complaints of sexual harassment and unprofessional conduct against him substantiated.

The professor, William Jaworski, has since been suspended and is currently under investigation by the university.

The New York Times reports on what the students, Samantha Norman and Eliza Putnam, did, and why. Having heard about the complaints regarding Jaworski, the students decided to take action:

On the first day of class in January, they visited two of Dr. Jaworski’s Philosophical Ethics classes, taught at the university’s Lincoln Center campus, in Manhattan, before the instructor arrived. Standing in front of a white board with about two dozen students folded into desks in front of them, they delivered a warning. “We introduced ourselves and said, ‘We just want you to know that there’s a history of allegations against this professor and multiple Title IX complaints,’” Ms. Putnam said. They told the students to take care of themselves and take care of each other, they said. They were in and out in less than five minutes.

One of the students made a similar presentation to another of Professor Jaworski’s classes.

They later were contacted by the university and told they were under investigation for violating its code of conduct for “dishonesty, disorderly conduct and verbal harassment.” The investigation resulted in the charge of “dishonesty” sticking. It is unclear from the report what, in particular, the students were found to be dishonest about.

Meanwhile, Professor Jaworski’s lawyer, Andrew T. Miltonberg, has reported that his client denies the allegations against him. He also suggested, according to the Times, that

Dr. Jaworski was being targeted because “the cultural leftists are intolerant of traditional morality.” The professor had intended to teach a course on “sexuality and morality from a traditionalist perspective,” his lawyer said.

The lawyer for the students, Kent Y. Hirozawa, said:

The conspiracy of silence about sexual abuse deprives future victims of the opportunity to protect themselves… What these students did to try to break the cycle was generous and courageous, and what they told their fellow students was true. It is ironic that Fordham should punish them for ‘dishonesty.’ The only dishonesty here is Fordham’s attempt to silence them and hide the truth.

More here.

(Thanks to several readers for bringing this story to my attention.)

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Negating negativity
Negating negativity
3 years ago

But wait, where are Dan, Preston, and Justin Kalef? Why are they not decrying the chilling of these students’ speech in the classroom by a university clearly unconcerned with protecting the free exchange of ideas in the classroom? Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Negating negativity
3 years ago

Is there a particular reason for your baiting? If you are actually interested in knowing what I think about this situation, why not just ask?

We aren’t in the 7th grade anymore.Report

Daniel Kaufman
Reply to  Negating negativity
3 years ago

For the record, I am against the punishing of whistleblowers, if that clarifies things for you and your upvoters.Report

Justin Kalef
Justin Kalef
Reply to  Negating negativity
3 years ago

That’s some straw man.Report

IGS
IGS
Reply to  Negating negativity
3 years ago

Could one of the 16 people who upvoted this (so far) explain what Negating Negativity’s critique is supposed to be here? Isn’t it fairly obvious that someone criticizing the quashing of free speech from a classical liberal perspective would be highly skeptical of punishing whistleblowers?Report

DocRPretired
DocRPretired
3 years ago

Not sure of the time line here. The professor has been suspended for an investigation. Was that after the students spoke up or was there an investigation and allegations before they spoke up? If the latter, the students’ defense is “truth”, a defense against slander, libel, etc… I lean toward Hirozawa’s comment. If not, then I agree with the university’s position.

I live in Michigan and taught ethics for many years, Nassar and MSU surely have set the bar for despicable behavior and cover ups, which continues to this day. Need more info on such for this issue, most importantly, when were there allegations, true or false? If there were rumors and such, that’s a really gray area. Very difficult to decide for someone looking in from outside, but these would be my questions; I withhold judgment since professors can be perverts protected from the consequences of their conduct as Nassar was, but so, too, can we jump on the bandwagon of students making unsupported and false allegations until the facts are in?

I guess my opinion now is that free speech protects the students until it is proven what they said was false, and they knew it or said it for malicious reasons (slander). Knee jerk reactions in either directions ought to be avoided.Report

zain
zain
Reply to  DocRPretired
3 years ago

The article claims that they stood in front of his classes before they began and quickly issued warnings before he arrived. I’m pretty sure that means he wasn’t suspended.Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
3 years ago

There’s some beautiful irony here in the connection Jaworski’s lawyer seems to be assuming between “traditional sexual morality” and the alleged sexual harassment.

This is yet another reminder, for those among us who still need it, that there are (still!) serious institutional obstacles to speaking out about sexual harassment. The students’ lawyer put it well: “The conspiracy of silence about sexual abuse deprives future victims of the opportunity to protect themselves,” Mr. Hirozawa said. “What these students did to try to break the cycle was generous and courageous, and what they told their fellow students was true. It is ironic that Fordham should punish them for ‘dishonesty.’ The only dishonesty here is Fordham’s attempt to silence them and hide the truth.”

It is a sad reflection of the world we live in that these students even need to have a lawyer under the circumstances.Report

Brian Kemple
3 years ago

I think it worthwhile to suspend judgment. Jaworski has had previous allegations–unspecified as to their nature–substantiated. Without knowing what they were, it’s hard to say whether or not the current instance is really what has been suggested.

I say this because I’ve seen it from the other side: during the height of the Catholic priest abuse scandals, I know of priests who were accused out of pure malice for their upholding Catholic moral teaching. The claims were eventually discovered to be false, but the interim was one of misery. The point being that in a climate of suspicion towards a particular group of people, calumny goes a long way towards damaging the lives and careers of the innocent. And I’m sure we’ve all encountered some malicious people within academia; would it be that hard to see?

At the same time, Jaworksi could be a slimeball who says and does terrible things. I don’t know him. I think it was imprudent of the girls to make their announcements, but wrong of the university to punish them.Report

Ken
Ken
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

They’re not “girls”, they’re grown women at university. We don’t need to further emphasize the difference in status between them and Jaworski; the university is doing that enough on their own.Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  Ken
3 years ago

I apologize if my statement offended you. Having taught college students, I default to seeing them as girls rather than women given their typical manners of dress and behavior. Very few people I encounter under the age of 25 seem to be–in terms of actual maturity rather than chronological age–truly adults; that goes for boys, too.

Though to be sure, I would be less likely to refer to a male college senior as a boy. Probably because “girl” has, for a very long time, had a wider age-range application than “boy” in third party description of an individual. I’m not sure why this is. I suspect it has to do with the younger maturation of *girls* which makes their adolescence and their young adulthood more continuous.

Regardless, it’s all rather tangential to my primary point, which is that we don’t really know what, if anything, Jaworksi is guilty of–except being disliked.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

There’s uhhh a lot going on here lol

My advice: worry more about *your* role vis-a-vis these “”kids”” and what that requires (one thing, imo: treating them with the respect adults deserve, if for no other reason than the hopeful trust that they will rise to the occasion) than armchair speculation about the post/pubescent goings-on of youngish females.Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  sahpa
3 years ago

Thanks.

For what it’s worth, I do treat my students as adults, because they are, despite their actions to the contrary, which are frequent.

And my “armchair speculation” was about *my own conception*, not about the “goings-on” of “youngish females”. I understand that you probably don’t like the points I’m making, but please don’t try painting me as a creep. It belittles both of us and the comments section generally.Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

You said “I would be less likely to refer to a male college senior as a boy. Probably because “girl” has, for a very long time, had a wider age-range application than “boy” in third party description of an individual. I’m not sure why this is. I suspect it has to do with the younger maturation of *girls* which makes their adolescence and their young adulthood more continuous.”

This is pretty obviously not just about “your own conception”, but about the general applicability conditions of the terms “boy” and “girl”, and the underlying explanation of those conditions. Let’s not pretend otherwise; it belittles the comments section and our reading comprehension.Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

Conceding that I was sufficiently vague in my explanation to allow your interpretation, I nevertheless think you are miscasting my statements in a manner that appears malicious. I was attempting to explain why I use the term “girl” to cover a wider range of age than I do the term “boy”, in general. I look for all elements in the totality of involvements whereby I have acquired that use. Being a realist, this includes (as, in my opinion, do all conceptions but those of “pure objects” [i.e., complete fictions]) but does not reduce to the physical.

If you would actually like to debate the “politics” of our conceptions of gender and maturity, by all means; but I’m not really sure of what your anonymously-delivered insinuations about my character are meant to achieve.

So unless you want to carry on an actual conversation, this’ll be my last word on the matter.Report

Anotherone
Anotherone
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

“I apologize if my statement offended you.”

Classic non-apology apology. Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

Brian Kemple, I don’t see how you can assert both that we should suspend judgment and that it was “imprudent” for Norman and Putnam to issue the warning they did. They of course, are much better-placed than you and I as regards to Jaworski’s behaviour.

To say that we can’t know what to think of him, but that we CAN know what to think of them—that they are behaving in a childish and irresponsible manner—seems to depend upon an uncomfortable double-standard.Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
3 years ago

What did Jaworski do? If you have well-documented evidence of it, then we can make a judgment. We have well-document evidence of what the girls did, so we can say it was imprudent (which is not the same as “childish” and “irresponsible”; your words, not mine).
Report

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

The deficiency in publicly-available evidence about Jaworski’s actions is thereby a deficiency in publicly-available evidence about the prudence of the students’ responses to it. If you want to be skeptical and suspend judgment, then at least do so even-handedly: you don’t know enough to opine on whether their actions were appropriate to the situation, because you don’t know what the situation is.

As for the wording choice, “imprudent” and “irresponsible” are near-synonymous. And in the context of that charge, and your insistence that you think of female college students as “girls” rather than “women” “given their typical manners of dress and behavior” (!), and your assertion above that people under 25 are almost always too immature to be considered adults, attributing “childishness” seems very close indeed to a paraphrase of what you have typed in this thread.Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
3 years ago

We don’t know what Jaworski did. We do know what the students did. The students themselves, by all public accounts that I have seen, have no idea what Jaworski did–except that there’s a history of allegations against him, but no available specifics (to the university community, even) as to what those allegations entailed. If they had specific information about what he has done, to whom, then I think that such interesting details would likely appear when they’re interviewed by reporters, wouldn’t they? Even if they were attributed to “anonymous sources”? From the available evidence, I think what they did was imprudent–which is to say, an incorrect judgment about the right thing to do. Jaworksi may in fact be innocent, and he may in fact be pressing for a traditional conception of sexual morality against which slander might be a weapon. I don’t know, but having known men who have been in a similar situation, and seeing the damage rendered to their lives by the spread of false accusations, I think I am fully justified in judging their statements to Prof. Jaworksi’s classes as imprudent.

As for “childish”–my statement that most under the age of 25 appear immature was a generalized statement which does not in fact apply in this situation. It was said in explanation of why I may unconsciously default to the term “girl” in referring to a young woman. I never once stated that I think Ms. Norman and Ms. Putnam are childish or immature, particularly given that all I know of them is the reporting on their actions in this particular situation.Report

Sergio Tenenbaum
Sergio Tenenbaum
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

The NYT reports that there were
“Many formal and informal complaints were made against him, two of which were substantiated, one for sexual harassment and another for unprofessional conduct.” They also report that Ms. Norman (one of the “girls”) heard of the incidents after she took Jaworski’s class but reports nothing on what she heard or from whom (note that she is a philosophy major, and thus possibly (if not likely) knows some of the people involved). Yet we conclude that
“We don’t know what Jaworski did. We do know what the students did. The students themselves, by all public accounts that I have seen, have no idea what Jaworski did”.

No double standards here.

Report

Not giving my name
Not giving my name
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

Sergio, could you please explain how an attribution of a double standard is the most charitable reading of your interlocutor? I don’t see it. You’re relying on the two cases being identical but for the fact that a standard is imposed in one case that isn’t in the other. But anyone who thinks about it for half a minute can see that that isn’t the case.

To take one obvious difference, the professor denies that the allegations against himself are true. But the students do not deny that the allegations against them — that they made the public accusation at the start of his class — are true. One can very plausibly hold that it is right to suspend judgment on cases where someone denies the accusation but not where the person does not deny the accusation. That doesn’t involve any double standard.

Nor can you invoke a double standard on the grounds that, while the professor denies wrongdoing and the students seem to openly admit what they did, one of the allegations against the professor was substantiated. The reason is that it is far from unreasonable to assign very different prima facie credence to the findings of internal university bodies that deal with sexual harassment allegations. It is very well known, and agreed on all sides, that those bodies often investigate, as in fact they were ordered to under the re-interpretation of Title IX, using a preponderance of evidence standard; and those who do the investigating tend to have zero forensic training and to have no idea of how to question witnesses without inadvertently (or blatantly) leading them. Furthermore, those being investigated are often not permitted to review the evidence or even the accusation against them, or to question the witnesses to reveal inconsistencies in their stories, prior to the verdicts; and the ‘investigators’ are under no obligation to talk to the witnesses or examine the evidence provided by the accused. And even if we leave all that aside, the scope of the term ‘sexual harassment’, as interpreted by these investigators, is incredibly broad, as suits the needs of university administrators who are terrified of a Title IX finding against their school but lose nothing if they falsely or unfairly find an innocent person to have done wrong. As we all know, people have been found guilty of ‘sexual harassment’ even for just expressing views on sexuality that the complaining party finds odious, with the apparent subjective state of the complaining party sometimes counting more than any mind-independent facts in arriving at the judgment.

Finally, the fact that these two students may have been likely to know the people involved is clearly irrelevant unless, as is obviously less likely, they know them qua the people involved. And you provide no evidence for that, either.Report

Female Name
Female Name
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

Brian Kemple, you say “If they had specific information about what he has done, to whom, then I think that such interesting details would likely appear when they’re interviewed by reporters, wouldn’t they? Even if they were attributed to “anonymous sources”?”

I don’t think you understand 1) how real journalism works and 2) how people tend to respect the fact that it is those who were victimized that should control when and how their story is told. Real journalists do not print stories unless they themselves can substantiate the claims in some way. This would mean that the NYtimes reporter would want to talk with the people who filed the complaints, see email correspondence between interested parties, or talk with university officials to get some corroboration before discussing the content of incidents. The university is not going to discuss the details of the incidents with the reporter. Thus, it leaves the people who filed the complaints or email correspondence of some kind. This brings me to 2). Even if the two women personally knows one or more of the complainants, it does not mean that they would give the reporter the complainant’s name or share with the reporter email correspondence. Why? Because it is up to the complainant whether he/she wants the “interesting” details of a humiliating experience to be made public. The fact that there are no details of incidents in this story means we are not dealing with “girls,” but mature women who care about the autonomy of those who are victimized by harassment in the work place and the classroom.

I will say, that if I was one of the people who complained about Jaworksi I wouldn’t want the details to come out, this blog being the biggest reason why. I wouldn’t want the peanut gallery combing through what they call “interesting” details and musing with undue confidence whether my humiliating experience really was humiliating enough to merit a suspension, or whether I was just an immature 24 year old that, because of my dress and manner, took things too personally and should have seen it as any other interesting experience. Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

Thanks Justin, but I’ve read Manne’s book (might want to check your presuppositions) and I’m curious what, precisely, you think she says that contravenes my point?

I’m not looking to satisfy my curiosity, nor am I insensitive to the intense suffering experienced by those who have been sexually abused or otherwise diminished through an experience of powerlessness in sexually-charged situations–I’ve seen what that does to women. What I am saying is I object to the kangaroo courts which might ruin an innocent individual’s life, because I have seen this as well. That is, even if the individual in this case is *not* innocent, neither you nor I know; nor has anyone been forthcoming with even a charge as to what he is supposedly guilty of. The skeptical sword cuts both ways.

The Title IX Guidance is painfully vague, and has its language focused primarily upon an unspecified standard of subjective interpretation as to the disruptiveness rendered by the accused’s actions. To put it as my dissertation director once did, “This is the age in which offense having been taken is understood to mean offense has been given–which is absurd.” Manne reflects this in her “Copernican revolution”, so to speak, by inverting misogyny to be about the difficulties women face rather than the animosity men feel; which is all well and fine until it comes to the point of “reasonable interpretation”–since “reason” and “interpretation” too, are terms of dispute I think ill-conceived today.

In other words, the disagreement here is probably (as so often it is), one of more fundamental issues structuring our interpretations (including our interpretation of “interpretation”). It is difficult if not impossible to discuss “right” and “wrong” when we cannot agree upon “good” and “bad”.Report

JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa
3 years ago

I’m not taking Brian’s side, but I wasn’t sure that he had expressed skepticism about the testimony of victims or those speaking on the behalf of victims. Justin’s quote is:

“We introduced ourselves and said, ‘We just want you to know that there’s a history of allegations against this professor and multiple Title IX complaints,’”

If Norman and Putnam had said “We personally know people who have been sexually harassed/assaulted by this professor”, that would be one thing. But they didn’t.

Anyhow, if I can offer what I take to be a helpful suggestion for constructive dialogue: Brian is saying that we don’t know whether Jaworski did what he was accused of, while we do know that Norman and Putnam did what they were accused of (they admit it!). I think we can all agree with that. But Jonathan’s point, I take it, is that if we don’t know whether Jaworski is guilty, we don’t know whether what Norman and Putnam did was *wrong* (or bad or illegal or in violation of university policy). The real debate, I think, should be about whether that conditional is true.Report

Faux-nesis
Faux-nesis
Reply to  JDRox
3 years ago

Brian seems remarkably confident that these students have acted “imprudently” by sharing true and important information with their community. However, given how little Brian knows about this situation, I think it worthwhile for him to suspend judgment. Brian does not know what other effective options, if any, were genuinely open to these women. That formal and informal complaints against Jaworski span an entire decade is reason to doubt that institutional mechanisms are working. The evidence for Jaworksi’s imprudence, by contrast, is overwhelming. Report

Not giving my name
Not giving my name
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

Justin W., you say

” The skepticism people express about the testimony of victims (and those speaking on their behalf, etc.) in discussions of sexual harassment and assault cases is of a kind you rarely see applied to other kinds of complaints (e.g., “I was mugged,” or “The store clerk was rude to me”). Further, the massive disincentives for making such complaints (and the possibly ruinous consequences of filing a false complaint),”

Both these claims are commonly made in these discussions, but I’ve never seen support for either and they both seem false. Could you please point us to your evidence for them? Thanks in advance. Report

Anna
Anna
3 years ago

Academics are the only people who have something against calling adult women girls. One of my non-academic friend yesterday made a comment about a brave “girl” (adult woman) – I joked about the sexism. She didn’t even get it – because for those outside of the ivory towers, it has never occurred to them that somebody could find ordinary language so contemptible. Let’s find something real to worry about, such as adult men who are creeps. Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Anna
3 years ago

This is a joke, surely. Your friend knows that ordinary language is at times political. If you doubt that, use a racial slur in front of her and see what happens.Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  sahpa
3 years ago

Pretty sure a racial slur doesn’t constitute “ordinary language.”Report

sahpa
sahpa
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

I suppose there’s a fair reading of what Anna meant by “ordinary language” that excludes slurs, though I am confident that racial slurs fall under the category of ordinary language at least as philosophers conceive of it (in ordinary language philosophy, mainly).

Even if you don’t like my example, there are plenty of others. Calling a dude short, a woman hot, etc. all have connotations or implications (about desirability and–excuse me–fuckability) that are politically charged. These are features of those uses of the ordinary language and those uses are highly political and the proper (formally speaking) objects of various reactive attitudes, including contempt. But “short” and “hot” are certainly ordinary language, even in the more restrictive sense you want.Report

JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  sahpa
3 years ago

Wait, ‘short’ is a slang term that means the same thing as ‘hot’, except it’s mainly applied to men?Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  sahpa
3 years ago

I’m fairly certain that the average person on the average day does not in the least think of “short” and “hot” as politically charged language…. except in a tentative sense when someone from the HR department is hovering nearby.Report

mti
mti
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

“I’m fairly certain that the average person on the average day does not”

It’s this line of argument, and the fact that people actually accept it as argument, that has left so much of philosophy practically, utterly, useless. Report

Brian Kemple
Reply to  Brian Kemple
3 years ago

And your comment is useful… how?

Let’s put it this way: what is the context that makes a thought political? Off hand, I’d say: That one has explicitly engaged a thought insofar as it bears, for good or ill, upon the common good of a social body, insofar as a social body is necessary to the provision of certain basic particular goods (food, security, education, etc.).

Now, that being said: is that what most people think most of the time when describing someone as “short” or “hot”?

“I tell ya, I’d say that woman is hot as hell but I’m concerned that reducing women to their sexual desirability will undermine the moral stability of the polis.”

…I just don’t see it.Report

Craig
Craig
Reply to  Anna
3 years ago

Anna,

To add to the anecdata: The vast majority of people I’ve heard complaining about women being described as “girls” are people in non-academic professions (e.g., law).Report

Daniel Kaufman
3 years ago

Justin wrote:

Thanks for saying this. The skepticism people express about the testimony of victims (and those speaking on their behalf, etc.) in discussions of sexual harassment and assault cases is of a kind you rarely see applied to other kinds of complaints (e.g., “I was mugged,” or “The store clerk was rude to me”).
= = =
You can say you were mugged and people might believe you. But not a thing will be done about it, until there is some actual evidence and … you know … a trial, where the accused gets legal representation and the ability to defend him or herself.

Unlike what we are talking about…

= = =

My advice to Brian K. and others interested in expressing such skepticism: before commenting further on this matter, read this book. Within a decade it will be one of the books that everyone in the profession will have to be familiar with in order to be thought of as adequately well-read, anyway, so you might as well get it over with now.

= = =

It’s nice that you are so absolutely confident that our profession is going to continue moving in the direction preferred by you and those who share your particular political orientation and dominant concerns. I suspect, however, that your confidence is ill-founded. Indeed, I doubt the profession will survive in its current form much longer.

Report

cscstars9
3 years ago

It seems to me the the comment section has gone a bit awry, with respect to the original article. My own view is that it is absurd for Fordham to accuse these women of dishonesty is absurd. They related what they knew to be true: that students had complained about his conduct in the past.

Now, perhaps going into his classes ahead of time was a bit much, but if, as the Provost suggested, this has been going on for at least a decade, I am willing to cut them slack. It’s difficult to see how else they might have spread the warning. Even if the precise mechanism was wrong, their speech was not ‘dishonest.’Report

Not giving my name
Not giving my name
Reply to  cscstars9
3 years ago

Presumably, they said something particular that was untruthful. We haven’t heard all the things they said. Report

NotAlike
NotAlike
Reply to  Not giving my name
3 years ago

NGMN, if we’re going to make any presumptions, why presume this? If the students said something untruthful that was both relevant and warranted institutional censure, it seems likely one of the reports would have mentioned this.Report

Not giving my name
Not giving my name
Reply to  NotAlike
3 years ago

From the NYT article:

“Ms. Norman and Ms. Putnam described themselves as frustrated that their warnings about the very behavior that got Dr. Jaworski suspended have formally branded them as “dishonest.” When they asked an administrator what the basis was for the finding, each of them was told that something they stated in front of Dr. Jaworski’s classes was inaccurate.”Report

LessMore
LessMore
Reply to  Not giving my name
3 years ago

I see. I had read this differently. Since the reporter and students themselves do not seem to know which statements were “inaccurate,” it seems premature to presume that they made relevantly inaccurate statements, let alone to presume that their statements were untrue or untruthful to a degree warranting institutional censure.Report

Not giving my name
Not giving my name
Reply to  LessMore
3 years ago

Hi, LessMore. If we trust that all the parties involved are being honest, then the story we get is this:

1) Complaints were made at some point about the professor, some of which were dismissed and at least one of which was found to be substantiated (and we must keep in mind here that what now counts as wrongdoing is extremely broad, and that all sorts of things are now deemed to make an environment ‘unsafe’, and that due process is no longer followed in many, if any, of these investigations, so these facts are consistent with the professor having done anything ranging from something gravely wrong to something not even slightly objectionable).

2) The two students, learning the above facts in ways we don’t know about, decided to make a five-minute announcement at the beginning of the professor’s class. This came to the attention of some university administrators.

3) The university administrators then began to investigate these students and, when asked, told them that they had said something dishonest in their comments to the classroom.

Taking all this at face value, imputing no dishonest motives to anyone, what happened is this: the students who made the announcement were mistaken about some facts of the case, and unfortunately misreported something (probably something false and harmful to the reputation of the professor) in making their comments. They probably did so unintentionally. A plausible explanation for this is that, as is normally a matter of policy, the university did not reveal the details of the internal invesgiation, and the students relied to some extent on rumor.

We could assume instead that either the administrators lied when they claimed that the students had said untrue things in the classroom. But why assume that, in the absence of evidence? Even if you aren’t interested in being charitable or presuming innocence, (and you should), do you really think the administrators are stupid? If the students make a complaint against the school for this finding, and the administrators turn out to have lied about the students getting some of the facts wrong (and it would be easy for this to be uncovered in an investigation, as the administrators obviously know), then things will go badly for the university, which in turn will throw the administrators under the bus. Why would they risk that? It’s prima facie very implausible.Report