Searle Found to Have Violated Sexual Harassment Policies (Updated with further details and statement from Berkeley)
Well-known philosopher John Searle, who began teaching at the University of California, Berkeley in 1959, has been stripped of his emeritus status there owing to the finding that he violated the university’s sexual harassment policies.
Searle was sued for sexual harassment in 2017, and the university had received prior complaints about him of sexual harassment.
A recent email to graduate students in Berkeley’s Department of Philosophy states:
[A]s of June 19th 2019, John Searle is no longer affiliated with UC Berkeley. Following a determination that he violated university policies against sexual harassment, President Napolitano has ended his emeritus status. This means, among other things, that he is no longer eligible to teach or advise students, nor will he have access to the campus beyond what is afforded to any member of the general public.
It is not clear whether this determination is related to the 2017 lawsuit or some other instance(s) of sexual harassment. [Added: see the update, below, according to which: “Campus disciplinary proceedings determined that Searle engaged in sexual harassment and retaliation against a former student and employee who worked with him in his campus office after graduating. These violations occurred between July and September of 2016 and were reported to the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD)—the Title IX office—in November 2016.” So it appears to be about this case.]
(via Jackson Kernion)
UPDATE (6/21/19, 2:00 EST): A spokesperson for UC Berkeley sent along the following statement:
John Searle, formerly a professor emeritus in UC Berkeley’s Department of Philosophy, has had his emeritus status revoked, along with all the privileges of that title, following a determination that he violated university policies against sexual harassment and retaliation.
This action permanently removes him from the university community. He will not be eligible to teach, work with graduate students, maintain office space or have special access to campus libraries, parking, etc. His access to the campus will be no different than those of any member of the general public.
Campus disciplinary proceedings determined that Searle engaged in sexual harassment and retaliation against a former student and employee who worked with him in his campus office after graduating. These violations occurred between July and September of 2016 and were reported to the campus Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination (OPHD)—the Title IX office—in November 2016.
Only the president of the University of California can approve the removal of a faculty member’s emeritus title and privileges following the full disciplinary process. UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ made the recommendation for removal and UC President Janet Napolitano approved the recommendation, which was effective June 19.
The action follows a finding by the campus Title IX Office that Searle violated university policy. Ultimately the case proceeded to a confidential evidentiary hearing before the Privilege & Tenure Committee of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. The Chancellor reviewed the committee’s findings and documents pertinent to the case in making her recommendation to the UC President.
During the investigation and disciplinary process, a number of interim steps were taken in light of the disturbing nature of the allegations at the time and the seriousness of those allegations. Throughout the disciplinary proceedings, Searle was not teaching, or advising Berkeley students. He did not engage in recruiting or hiring university employees, was barred from participating in departmental activities while the case was pending, and did not maintain an office on campus. None of these interim measures implied any judgment about the ultimate outcome of the investigation but were taken as precautionary measures.
The disciplinary decision announced today means that Searle permanently loses the title and all privileges that may come with emeritus status. Under University policy, the only disciplinary action that may be taken against an emeritus professor (i.e., a retired professor), is temporary or permanent removal of the emeritus title and corresponding privileges.
Emeritus status is automatically conferred on tenured Senate faculty members upon retirement and can include numerous privileges, including that the title itself carries the prestige of continued association with the university. Emeritus faculty also are sometimes recalled to teach and, depending on the department, may be involved in department matters. More information on those privileges is available here: http://ofew.berkeley.edu/
Sexual harassment and retaliation have no place in the UC Berkeley Community. We understand that such actions have the potential to cause great harm and are fundamentally detrimental to our educational mission. Over the past several years, the university has intensified and reformed its response to sexual misconduct, improved educational efforts aimed at faculty, staff and students; expanded its investigative capacity, and clarified the responsibilities of faculty and employees to forward reports of sexual violence to OPHD that are disclosed to them.
Once OPHD is made aware of sexual harassment or sexual violence (SVSH) allegations, it reviews the matter to determine if the conduct could violate our SVSH policy. OPHD also reaches out to all identified parties to provide information on their rights and campus resources for support.
The campus works diligently to enhance support and services for those who have experienced harm. We encourage survivors to contact the campus’s PATH to Care Center, which offers affirming and confidential support including guidance regarding other campus and community support services and reporting options.
If any member of our campus community has been directly or indirectly harmed by sexual harassment, intimate partner violence, stalking, or sexual violence, confidential support is available at the PATH to Care Center 24-Hour Crisis/Care Line: 510-643-2005 | Office appointments: 510-642-1988 | care.berkeley.edu). Please see http://survivorsupport.
UPDATE (6/24/19): Kristin Gehrman (Tennesee, Knoxville), writes: “I don’t regret sticking my neck out back in 2004, and I definitely don’t regret doing it in public again now. But I did it for a very specific reason, which is that I firmly believe that professors, administrators, and others in positions of power in academia are responsible for creating INSTITUTIONAL barriers to the kinds of predatory, undermining, and alienating behavior that John Searle’s undergraduate research assistants have been subjected to for years and years.” See her full comments at PEA Soup.
Time to reset the “NO SEXUAL HARASSMENT INCIDENTS SINCE…” shop sign for professional Philosophy.
We’re back at zero days.
What does the Searle case tell us?
Searle’s behavior has been common knowledge in the profession for decades, but only recently–perhaps due to the #MeToo movement–has he been held accountable. Example:
My first year as a professor (1975–i.e. when Gerald Ford was president!) Searle came to lecture (on the “assertion fallacy”) at my school, he after his talk he made a bee-line for one of our women grad students. He’s apparently picked her out in the crowd, during his discussion of “What does it mean to call a cabbage ‘good’?” The graduate student later told me that he asked her for a ride back to his motel room (in the middle of the afternoon). He disappeared into the bathroom for a few minutes and then reappeared–fully naked. He then proceeded to grab her until she could push him away long enough to get out of the room. I told this story some years later to a colleague of Searle’s who said, “Oh yes, that’s John!”
A reasonable assumption is that this sort of behavior has continued until recently–i.e. 40+ years. How do we explain the fact that no one spoke up until recently?Report
One way to explain it is to come to terms with the fact that people did speak up — myself included — but institutions and individuals in positions of authority either did not listen, or silenced and intimidated those who spoke.Report
I spoke up about a creepy and abusive, very famous male professor, one with a decades long (pretty well known) career of creepiness and abuse. It was not Searle, and this man is still very active in the profession.
My department didn’t do anything. My university didn’t do anything.
Because I spoke up, I lost a lot of professional friends. As far as I can tell, the profession has just shrugged and will continue to shrug and say “that’s just so-and-so.”
Let’s get clear about something: the problem is not women failing to speak up.Report
I recently had dinner with a female philosophy professor in her 70s, and we discussed the Searle case. She said that she still vividly recalled the night she was invited to his house for dinner, around 40 years ago. It was Searle, his wife, and a young female graduate student. She remembers trying to find an excuse to leave early, as the interaction between the graduate student and Searle made the behind the scenes situation more than obvious, and the entire situation more than uncomfortable for her. Meanwhile, she recounted, his wife looked on, with an irritated and knowing expression.
I myself am a female assistant professor. And I can recall at least 2 occasions in the last two years where I had dinner with a group of male professors, and one of the conversations that came up was about a male professor who was known for sleeping with his students. The general vibe was that these are funny stories about *how* everyone knew it, and yet pretended they didn’t. There was lots of ironic laughing and eye rolls at the supposed surprise people show when these things come out. While those recounting the stories didn’t exactly express approval for any of this, they certainly didn’t express disapproval either. Rather than shock or anger, I remember thinking just how strange and disappointing were the conversation’s familiarity to literal high school gossip. Just very weird and immature. It made me wonder if one of the reasons these things can go on so long is that people enjoy watching the show.Report
One of the lessons I’ve taken away from this situation is that academic institutions, and the individual academics that make them up, do not behave in the kind of principled ways you might expect.Report
You have to be incredibly naive to expect institutions like universities and those in positions of power within them to be guided by moral principles. When the HR department releases some statement saying the university is deeply committed to X, it is either because they have just been caught violating X or are about to do so.Report
I’m going to agree with Jackson K., here. I read his words as spot-on.
You know, there’s an old phrase attributed to P.T. Barnum that reads like this: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” I’ve always maintained that this is incorrect. Rather, what is born every minute is someone who is willing to take advantage of an honest and unsuspecting person.
Upsetting the background is often what makes for some of the best humor. What is done in this Barnum attributed quote is, it takes the common transactional background of expected honesty, a social regulation in law and everyday dealing, then flips it on its head by arguing the practice is actually an opportunity for illicit profit. Of course it is intended as humor and it’s very funny. But no one, not even Barnum (if he actually said it), meant it as an actual practice, but rather as a joke.
It’s all too easy to become cynical (common social use) and adopt negative attitudes such as that intended by the Barnum quote (or misquote), if we’re not careful. In such moments we’re all laughing and the audacious nature of the assertion is tantalizingly enticing in it’s potential. But, it’s still a joke. And, in our present circumstances involving predatory behavior directed at others, it’s important that each of us compel ourselves to be present in the moment and guard against loose tendencies such as allowing cynicism (again common use) to creep in. Effective humor is juxtaposed against a background of common everyday practice for a reason: this is what makes it funny. But adopting these witticisms as functional life maxims is obviously a misread, and it’s a mistake.Report
L.C, that is a very nice restatement of the supposed P.T. Barnum saw. What should be obviously understood to be how the original statement is to be interpreted is not so obvious after all, but there you have done it. Beautifully.Report
By the way, YAAGS, I agree with what you’ve said, too. The “marketing one’s weakness as a strength” ploy is pervasive in our society. And, this is because it is so effective at misleading people. But I want us to remember that its efficacy doesn’t mean those deceived are at fault any more than someone who falls victim to a sneak-attack is at fault. It’s right for us to expect better, but when we couch it in terms such as naive, we actually lend credibility to the attacker. I just want to be careful not to do that.Report
You are absolutely right, and my apologies for misspeaking. I am sure people spoke up as you did. And metoo, I did not mean to suggest that the problem was not women speaking up. But I still remain astounded that so many people–including most in Searle’s own dept, apparently, especially those who voices might have put an end to it–did nothing about this. And for 40 years!Report
@Leigh M. Johnson
I did not know that sexual harassment was such a prevalent problem among philosophers in academia… Bummer :/Report
This site (Daily Nous) literally has an archive of instances. It’s THAT prevalent.
Hi, Leigh. That isn’t an archive of instances: it’s an article of stories about alleged instances and, sometimes, findings. How many cases are discussed there: five? Pogge, Searle, Ludlow, McGinn (all of which have been discussed endlessly), plus Dougherty, I believe.
There are 10,000 philosophy professors in the United States alone. Let’s say there are ten cases here, since some cases are not reported. That’s one alleged case for every thousand people, if we limit people to the US. Or we could double or triple that. It still hardly seems “prevalent”.
You say above that we have to reset the ‘X days since a sexual harassment finding’ clock. That’s right: The number of sexual harassment cases is nonzero. So is the number of murders, thefts, muggings, beatings of innocent people, etc. And so it will always be. We will never reach social perfection, and the fact that we have not reached it does not mean that these problems are ‘prevalent’.
The question is, are the plausible allegations taken seriously? If Searle has indeed been up to these tricks for decades, and they were duly reported, then it seems there was a long period during which they were not, and that’s very regrettable. However, clearly someone has taken them seriously now, since he has been permanently stripped of his emeritus status by a legitimate disciplinary committee.
Rather than try to freak everyone out, especially female students, by constantly telling them (and ourselves) that harassment is ‘prevalent’ in the profession, even though there is absolutely no credible evidence that it’s worse in philosophy than anywhere else, wouldn’t it be better to see whether there’s any reason, today, to think that legitimate complaints are being ignored, and try to do something when they can? That’s something we can all work on. But hoping that nobody who is apt to commit harassment will ever make it into the profession is an impossible ideal.Report
Well, most (like 80%) women in philosophy/academy I know have a sexual/gender harassment story. I don’t have statistics, but that always seemed to me like WAY too many. I don’t know if it’s worse or better elsewhere, but that seems beside the point.Report
I don’t think we should be tossing made-up numbers like “80%” around without any evidence to back them up.
I believe that sexual harassment is far too prevalent everywhere, including academia, and that a good ol’ boy mentality exists in the minds of many who would have otherwise had the power to take charges seriously heretofore.
But we should be aware that it only takes a few bad apples to affect many people, which calls into question what we mean by “prevalent in the profession.” It’s, in my opinion, not a prevalent behavior among professors, in that most professors are professionals. But it may seem prevalent among the student population simply because one perp can affect sooo many students.Report
I cannot see what is wrong wit saying that about 80perc of women I know experienced harrasment. I am not reporting some “made up” number but my estimate about how many of the people I know told me something. That is neither saying that 80perc of women in academia in general experienced harrasment nor that 80perc of men engage in harrasment. It is just saying that it is a very high number given the seriousness of the issue and the number of women I know.Report
I think trying to make up numbers to attach to our personal experiences is an attempt to give an unearned air of authority and legitimacy to our claims.
And the fact that you seem to be attaching too much credence to this “estimate” of yours is further evinced by your last sentence, where you specifically refer to the height of this unverified number. It’s question begging really. I think it’s more accurate to just say “most” or “many” or something to that effect.
In any case, this is neither here nor there: I think we agree on the important things here–there is too much harassment happening in academia no matter what the exact percentage is until it is 0%.Report
I’m not sure why it’s beside the point, jj. Over and over again, certain people within the discipline have claimed that this, that and the other thing absolutely must be put in place immediately because of a supposed ‘culture of harassment’ within the discipline that has never been substantiated. In fact, nobody has even tried to substantiate the claim, as far as I have been able to find out: for all the APA’s efforts, it never seems to have tried to determine how extensive the problem is or compare it with any other discipline. We have been told that more room must be made for feminist philosophy (though the causal connection has never been clarified), and so on. Few dare oppose any of these moves because to do so is seen to be a sign of denial about a problem whose extent has never been determined.
Meanwhile, female students are routinely told horror stories about the discipline, which has the effect of either radicalizing them or else driving them away. These horror stories are told with an air of authority, as though the tellers of those stories have good grounds for thinking that philosophy has a particularly bad problem and that nobody’s doing anything about it. But again, look at how many times the stories of McGinn, Ludlow, etc. have been told, and how swiftly they were driven from the profession, and how quickly even their works have ceased to be cited. Is that what one would expect from a discipline that winks at harassment? Hardly.
If these allegations about philosophy are to continue to be told to newcomers, especially new female students, and if those allegations are to be the basis of policies and practices, then whether they are true (both absolutely and comparatively) really seems relevant.
You provide an anecdote in support of your contention, jj. You say that, as far as you can recall, something like 80% of women have some story of gender or sexual harassment. There are many other women who have been in the profession for a long time with no such stories. Even if your recollection is correct, some questions seem pertinent. Here are a few.
1. Most of the people we meet in philosophy, we meet only in passing. Do you mean to say that 80% of _all_ women you have met, even in passing, have told you of sexual harassment that they experienced? That seems very unlikely. I presume that you mean that about 80% of the women you know fairly well have told you stories of harassment. But then one must wonder: might that sample be biased somehow? Those who feel strongly that philosophy, and society more broadly, has a sexual harassment problem are apt to find several things in common, as do those who feel the opposite way. This seems to explain why some circles of online friends estimate such high numbers while others estimate much lower ones. When one limits oneself to one’s department, the numbers are likely to be even more skewed, since local subcultures can be so different.
2. What exactly is to be counted as ‘sexual harassment’? If John Searle pressures you to let him into his hotel room, then strips naked without your consent and tries to grab you until you push him away, then hell, yeah, that’s clear-cut sexual harassment. But some people say they’ve been harassed when some professor compliments them on their new hairstyle, or makes a non-suggestive comment unrelated to their sex or appearance that they somehow take to be offensive for reasons they can’t justify, and then tell us (implausibly) that such a thing would never be said to a man. If we include things like that, then sure, we can probably get up to 80% or higher. But the concept is so broad and ill-defined now that the claim doesn’t really tell us anything. To be clear, though: if 80% of professors got naked and chased unwilling students around hotel rooms, there would be a massive problem. But I’ve never heard anything that suggests the numbers are remotely that high. Also, people are apt to interpret otherwise innocuous things as harassment merely because they’ve been repeatedly told that there’s a culture of harassment all around them.
3. How does one rule out, while remembering casual conversations, the effect of people re-interpreting events to jump on the bandwagon, or tell others’ stories as their own, or embellish in various ways? Whenever a group of people discusses something they all see as a problem, they are likely to try to come up with good and shocking stories to tell so that they can fit in. Such occasions do not find us at our best. Moreover, when there is something political at stake that we care about, that, too, shapes our stories. Those who are opposed to immigration can always supposedly remember clear cases of immigrants wronging them in some way, and so on. The phenomena of motivated reasoning and motivated remembering have been studied quite extensively, and these effects are common.
4. How can one distinguish between accurate reports and reports by someone who is deceived or deceiving? At best, these anecdotal reports give one side of the story.
5. Suppose for the sake of argument that there were exactly 100 women in philosophy and that 80 of them alleged that they were either chased around a room by a naked professor or else went one time to a conference, or belonged to a department, in which they lived in terror because of credible reports that someone had a tendency to act that way with female students or colleagues. Suppose also that all those stories were completely accurate. Would it follow from this that the discipline is saturated with sexual harassers? No. Actually, all that would be consistent with there being just a single chronic harasser who tried to harassed everyone he set eyes on. If that were the case, then the profession should definitely work to stop the harasser’s activities at once. But it wouldn’t mean that philosophers tended to be harassers. In your case, even if it were true that 80% of the women you have ever met had stories (always their own?) of harassment, and even if that were a good cross section of the profession (for the sake of argument), nothing would follow about how many in the profession would ever engage in harassment.Report
Tell you what. I did my PhD in a department with ~30 grad students, and I know for a fact that a single person sexually harassed *at least* 8 of them, myself included. Since leaving, I keep hearing from new people who have been harassed by this person.
I’ll tell you a second thing. We reported this person a number of times, including on departmental climate surveys. Not only was nothing done, but members of the climate committee were informed that nothing bad had been disclosed in the surveys.Report
obviouslyanonymous, I’m very sorry to hear that you were sexually harassed by this person.
But I don’t understand why your story ends there. The profession, and academia more broadly, is filled with thousands of people who are keen to join in any crusade against an alleged harasser, and few people will dare to question even merely testimonial evidence in today’s climate. Look at what happened, for instance, in the Ludlow case: he faced a hearing in which he was not even permitted to present exonerating evidence (the videotapes from the elevator’s security camera which apparently established that his accuser’s story was false), etc., because these investigations are designed to favor accusers over the accused. The allegations against him were hardly something severe like chasing someone around a hotel room naked. But despite this, a popular movement against him prevented his students from even attending class with him, and anti-harassment networks within philosophy flew into action against him, hounding him out of his job. Meanwhile, his university was publicly attacked in the mass media, etc.
You say that you and several of your fellow grad students were harassed by someone in your program. According to your story, you all tried to draw attention to this person’s behavior by filling out a climate survey about it, but, you say, members of that climate committee were told something they knew to be false — that there was nothing bad reported in the survey. What happened next? If your story is correct, it should be very clear where things got derailed and who was responsible: the person who interpreted the survey is to blame, and you should be able to show this. What happened when you tried to show it?
If the department really is circling its wagons and lying about the results about a survey to protect someone, then you could simply send an email indicating this fact to the chair of that department. If he or she rationalizes the behavior or fails to respond to you, you could use that as evidence of a cover-up and threaten to take it to the dean. If that doesn’t motivate the department chair to take action, you take it to the dean. If the dean fails to act upon it, you bring it to the attention of the Title IX coordinator and/or supply the evidence to any of the well-known anti-harassment crusaders in the profession or at the school. They should have a public campaign together within a day or two against any at the school who dragged their feet on this.
Have you gone through that process? Has anyone? If so, what happened? If not, why not?Report
Similar story here. We had several students mention that a professor had been sexually harassing them. This even showed up on climate surveys, with the professor’s name struck out. Nothing happened.
Then, we had an external review of the department coming. All of a sudden our chair was “shocked to find out” that this professor had harassed students, and took action against it.
I think this is how it feels in a lot of places: there needs to be a risk to the reputation of the department before anything gets done about sexual harassment.Report
drdr, what happened then? Did someone produce copies of the survey the Chair had already seen, demonstrating that the Chair had already been told about this? If not, why not?Report
I went through that process, more optimistic, and produce evidence of a cover-up. University shrugged. Supposed “anti harassment crusaders” also pretty much shrugged.
Honestly, I think you’re pretty off base in your understanding of the way the vast, vast majority of harassment allegations are treated, and it’s frustrating to me that you’re responding with such skepticism to people who are trying to tell you the way these cases are often handled.
I also am not sure that you’ve got an accurate picture of what really happened in the Ludlow and McGinn cases- those blew up primarily because of legal action, not because some feminist philosophers went on a crusade. Just look at Pogge, who is still a normal member of the department at Yale, among other reasons, because a full lawsuit against him never really worked its way through the courts.Report
ps. Why would any grad student want to make a big show of producing the documents catching the chair in a lie? Do you know what often happens to female grad students and junior faculty who so openly defy their chairs like this?Report
More optimistic: My story doesn’t end there. I’m just not interested in sharing too much more of it here at present. I reported my harasser higher up the admin food chain, and was told it was a mental health issue (i.e. his mental health, not mine), and that they couldn’t really help me. So I gave up for a while. He eventually left, and my (our!) nightmare ended. I graduated, and a couple years later came out publicly to the department about what happened to me. They expressed shock, said nobody reported anything on the climate surveys, and grilled me for a couple hours (with no warning that was what the meeting was about) on the precise details of my harassment (all of which I’d already disclosed in a letter). They probably meant well in this meeting, but it was a very negative experience for me.
I don’t have the energy or security to stir the pot too much more. I’m also not in the US, so the institutional protections and procedures are different.
I should add that most of his victims are men. And that presents an additional obstacle, because people are less willing to believe that we were harassed, assaulted, stalked, etc. in these ways.Report
metoo, I’m definitely sympathetic to the issue of harassment and want to help resist it, but I still can’t see how things could be the way you say they are.
You say that you produced evidence of a cover-up, and that the people you revealed the evidence to did nothing. That could be for a couple of reasons. Maybe the evidence didn’t show the serious thing you thought it showed. But if it really was the smoking gun you feel it was and the university, when presented with that smoking gun, did absolutely nothing about it, then there seem to be many other options. For you would then have strong evidence of the university’s own guilt. The emails you sent that were never replied to, or were replied to with indifference or false promises, would make a very strong case against the university. You could use those as the basis for a Title IX lawsuit and bring the university to its knees. You could leak them to the media and it would make headlines. Universities know this, and that’s why they tend to make sure not to be caught doing this sort of thing.
If you feel that presenting that evidence would open you up to retaliation, you could pass it along to other people. I have no stake in the matter, but I would be glad to take the evidence further on your behalf. But so would all sorts of other people, and not just feminist philosophers (though it’s hard to imagine any who wouldn’t jump at the chance). I’m pretty sure Justin Weinberg would be glad to start and circulate a petition against the university if it were clearly caught in such a cover-up. I can’t imagine that you’d get fewer than a thousand or so names.
You say that the McGinn and Ludlow cases blew up because of lawsuits, implying that nothing would have happened if there had been no lawsuit. But here’s what McGinn’s former colleague Edward Erwin says on the matter: “Before the case was brought, McGinn, like Peter Ludlow, was blacklisted from academic philosophy. He was denied a one year Visiting Position at East Carolina University; he has been asked to withdraw his contribution to an anthology on Shakespeare and Philosophy because other authors threatened to pull theirs (Peter Ludlow has suffered the same fate), and more recently, he has had a contract for a Shakespeare book cancelled specifically because of the allegations in the case; he has had speaking engagements cancelled, and, although he has applied to several other academic positions, he has failed to make the short list for any of them.” Do you deny all this?
As for Pogge, there was indeed an internal investigation after a graduate student made a complaint about him a few years ago, and the internal investigation did not find the charges against him well-supported (though they found that he had wrongly used his office to help secure employment for someone). Is that evidence of a cover-up on Yale’s part? Or is it merely a sign of the fact that not all accusations of sexual harassment are all they’re cracked up to be? In fact, even after Pogge was exonerated on the sexual harassment allegation, hundreds of academics signed letters and petitions protesting the verdict. Presumably, many (and likely most) of these people had not bothered to investigate the matter before signing; they simply presumed, as we see so often, that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Pogge himself replied to all the complaints against him here, giving his side of the story and rebutting the lines of argument that were used against him: http://thomaspogge.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Response-to-the-Allegations-by-Fernanda-Lopez-Aguilar.pdf Had the hundreds of signatories had evidence that he was lying in this account, they could have presented it and shown that his story was false. Meanwhile, Pogge’s star has certainly fallen. He was considered one of the greatest living philosophers just months before the story broke; now he is a pariah. This really doesn’t seem to be consistent with the hypothesis that the philosophical community doesn’t take harassment very seriously.Report
I’m sorry to hear about that, Obviously Anonymous. It’s certainly true that protections and sympathy for male victims of sexual harassment are practically nonexistent in most cases. I’m puzzled by some things in your account, though. You say you think those at the meeting might have been well-intentioned, but you also say that they falsely claimed that there was nothing in the results of the climate survey to warn them about this mentally ill harasser. But I thought you said that many people had reported in that survey that the person had harassed them, so how could the people who claimed to be surprised by your report after they had already read the survey results be well intentioned?
I don’t understand, but I don’t want to push you to say more if you aren’t keen to discuss it any longer.Report
I’m not sure why it would matter, in the hypothetical you describe, that the same person is doing the harassing. What matters for someone is how likely they are to be harassed. If that number is unacceptably high, it’s cold comfort if the reason is that all the harassment is coming from one person who’s out of control and not being dealt with.Report
I think it matters for a number of reasons, David. For one thing, many female (and male) students are being given the impression that the discipline is filled with harassers. If the harassment saturation hypothesis were true, one would expect there to be nowhere safe to turn to in the profession, since anyone you talk to is liable to be another threat or, at best, do little about the problem in order to preserve a harassment-friendly environment. But if (as seems rather more likely) there are just a few harassers targeting large numbers of people, then the solution is much easier and the hope is much greater.
Also, a female student is much less likely to trust her fortunes to the discipline if she feels that many of her potential supervisors, colleagues, etc. are harassers than if it’s clear that the number of harassers is very low and the odds that anyone she selects is a harasser are not very high.Report
I think you guys are intentionally misunderstanding what I am saying or simply really like the state of affairs in regard to women as it is. First, Obviously, I do not mean 80 percent of all women I happened to pass by! That’s as stupid inference as it gets. The charitable reading is – 80percent of women with whom I became sufficiently close in profession to talk about this issue. I am not sure how many that is overall, but maybe 10-15, small number enough to estimate roughly the percentage. Second, Nicole is completely beside the point. If I become well acquainted with about 10 women in academy to consider them friends and be able to talk about certain things and 7-8 of them tell me that, say, they were raped at some point in their life, I do not need to know overall country, city, or university statistics to tell me that either I am incredibly “lucky” to meet so mane women who were raped, or there is some pervasive problem going in the country. Similarly with cases of sexual and gender harrassment. Third, I do claim authority over my memory about this, yes. And I do not care a bit if Nicole think it’s unverified number. I do not even know what that means. Do you ask people for verification if they tell you, say, that they half the people they are friends with are single? Fourth, obviously, I make no claim whatsoever about whether it was one person respnsibke for all the cases (unlikely, since not the same institutions) or anything else. But I am saying that given the high percentage of harrasment among the random sample of women I happen to know enough, only a intentionally not giveing a shit person would ignore it or try to argue that that does not mean anything. Lastly, I do not know much about academy culture of harrasment overall – I am not even sure how you would go about substantiating it one way or another. I just choose to believe the women I know. Because they are human beings.Report
“I think you guys are intentionally misunderstanding what I am saying or simply really like the state of affairs in regard to women as it is. ”
jj, I’m sorry you’re taking such offense at our critique, but honestly, I did try and point out that we’re on the same side here. Please don’t strawperson me as a bad guy just because you don’t appreciate our arguments. It’s a great example of irony that you would complain that we are intentionally misunderstanding you, and then try and attribute to us actually enjoying the status quo.
In any case, this in-fighting is useless and I hope you can move on, because I certainly am doing so right now.Report
“There are 10,000 philosophy professors in the United States alone. Let’s say there are ten cases here, since some cases are not reported. That’s one alleged case for every thousand people, if we limit people to the US. Or we could double or triple that. It still hardly seems “prevalent”.”
It’s funny that you can use this completely bogus statistic — arrived at through pulling a number out of thin air — and then go on to discredit someone making an honest estimate from their own conversations.
Every single male professor in my former department had some case or another shoved under the table. We could double or triple the number. Or we could multiply it by the hundreds, as the experience of women and gender minorities tells us we should. Spare me your rhetorical tricks.Report
I’m not sure it’s fair to characterize those numbers as “bogus” and pulled “out of thin air.”
The 10,000 number is a pretty standard estimate of how many phil profs work in the US (though the number should be lowered if we want to focus on male profs). And the 10 number comes from doubling the number of cases discussed in the link that Leigh Johnson provided as evidence that harassment is prevalent in the profession: http://dailynous.com/tag/sexual-harassment/ .
Anyway, I’m sorry that every single male prof in your department was a harasser. That’s obscene. But can we agree that your department was an extreme case (to say the least)? Or do you think your department was roughly representative of male phil profs in the entire profession?Report
I wrote every single male professor has some case hidden under the table. From this you concluded, “every male was a harasser”. Perhaps I should be more clear. While this is technically true, I wish to avoid the use of the word harasser, because it associates the cases I’m talking about (a professor repeatedly making comments about a women’s appearance/ singling her out in a class as a woman) with the cases of Searle. If we’re talking about cases of serial harasser like Searle, the number is certainly closer to the number MoreOptimistic provided, although I’d gander it would still be much higher.
When I said bogus numbers, I was obviously not referring to the number of male professors, but the choice of multiplier for accounting for unreported cases. I mentioned my former department to explain why I believed this was a substantially low estimate. The above paragraph should make it clear why I don’t think this is an extreme example.
And before anyone tries to correct my language here, let me be clear. I do mean it when I say these cases have been hidden under the table. My experience with making a report to my universities gender and sexuality centre clearly let me know these sorts of cases rarely leave the safe spaces for women and gender minorities. Many people only tell trusted friends. Just because these cases never receive an official report does not mean they don’t happen. What I’m asking is for people to trust the information women have from their personal networks, because such networks are often the only way such information is disseminated. It is through these networks that I know for a fact that it was pervasive in my former department, and it is these networks which give me a pretty good idea that it was no exception.
Finally, I know someone’s going to say this, so I may as well address it now. No, this is not an overly expansive definition of sexual harassment. Few people are saying that every single person who has committed sexual harassment should be punished in the same way as Searle etc. Rather, we’re saying that the issue of sexual harassment is one which deserves more open attention to the problem in our institutions. This does not mean that every person who commits sexual harassment should be ousted. It is saying that people should be accountable for actions which contribute to a hostile work environment. I personally think one of the biggest reasons me too has received such a backlash is because there are countless men (and women) who can think of something they did (maybe you can think of something you’ve done on the list I provided above — I certainly can think of things I’ve done) and are afraid that they will be unjustly punished.
I think a better approach is to realise that we all make mistakes, and that we can all make resolution to do better in the future. In short, I don’t want your fake sympathy. If you’re truly sorry, you’d work toward making a philosophy a safer place for women (and men) by seriously examining your actions and the actions of those around you, and giving an honest effort to improve both.Report
I wrote a longer comment but it seems to have not appeared.
In short: I hope we can agree it would be pretty silly of me to have mentioned this detail if I did not mean the later. Perhaps I shouldn’t have specified male, because female professors too participate in and enable benign harassment. Certainly not everyone is a harraser in the sense of the word the Searles and the Weinsteins of the world, but there are MANY cases which while not ultimately reported in official offices, are shared in safe environments (e.g. campus support centers) and with trusted peers. Perhaps hidden under the table was the wrong turn of phrase to express this. I more plainly meant ‘unreported’ (although I can think of several instances in which the reason for it being unreported is by the council of someone in a position of authority).
My point in saying this is not to cast stones, but only to defend the information being given that the problem is prevalent. Please trust the information women are giving you.Report
Ex-philosopher, when you say “Please trust the information women are giving you”, do you mean that we should assume that any accusation a woman makes is correct, unless it can be demonstrated that it is not correct? I hope not.
If it is what you mean, please note that it does not, on any plausible epistemic model, follow from the fact that instances of X have occurred and not been reported that we ought to trust all reports of X, nor does it follow that X is prevalent.
In case it’s needed, here’s a clear counterexample: Some murders take place. Some murders that take place are unreported. However, it does not follow from these unsurprising facts that every accusation of murder ought to be trusted and treated as ‘information’, and the two facts I just mentioned are consistent with the murder rate being 100% or 0.0001%.Report
Hi more optimistic,
Your comments betray an ignorance that I feel compelled to address. Let me tell you, personally, as in, from my fifteen years of experience within it, that this discipline has WAY TOO MANY sexual harassers and predators.
I hope that helps you.Report
Once again, we are given anecdotal evidence and insistent assertion. That is no rational basis for your assessment that I am ignorant. It does nothing to support the notion that philosophy is worse than anywhere else, nor does it provide any good basis for estimating the frequency of harassment. I have never denied that harassment occurs. This does not help move the conversation forward.Report
There’s nothing anecdotal about direct first person testimony. You are specifically ignoring the account of metoo and the first person account of her(?) experience. Then you go on to completely fail to address her(?) experience. If you’re just going to ignore the facts as presented, then no one has an obligation to take you seriously. And, I ask what your true purpose for being here is. Are you here to speak honestly to the issues? Because when you dismissing others, you’re not doing that. Why are you dismissing direct first person testimony while acting as an apologist for wayward philosophy departments and sexual predators within them? What is your true goal here?Report
Shows once again that you can be a good philosopher without being a good philosopher.Report
Geach must be spinning in his grave.Report
Ding Dong the Witch is Dead.
~~Long live Kristina Gehrman.~~
Now — all you who looked me in the eye every single day while I clung to my student visa and did nothing as I ducked and weaved? An apology would be a good start.Report
Vida, I am sorry for your yucky yucky yucky experience. And I am glad you stayed in the discipline! One good thing about this whole mess is that the more people talk about their experiences the more the can find one another, and quit wasting their breath arguing with those who won’t see reason. I’m glad we found each other!Report
It’s good to see Berkeley taking sexual harassment seriously. I don’t think publically naming and shaming perpetrators is constructive, though.Report
why would you think that?!Report
Public shaming is generaly not constructive, including as a response to crimes.Report
Searle is an extremely prominent philosopher, who furthermore exploited his professional reputation in order to engage in this behavior. It’s a matter which is of relevance for the profession at large.Report
Sexual harassment is of relevance for the profession at large. It’s a lot less important to publicize the actions of individuals. It seems to get people focussing on punishment more than changing things (or assumng, as conservaties are more famous for doing, that harsh punishment must be the best way to change things. How important do you think that public shaming is as a response to crime in general?Report
Actually, I think it *is* important in this case, and in similar ones. And that’s because these people enjoy substantial reputations in the field, including abroad (Searle, for instance, has some very close ties to departments in Italy). Keeping their behaviour a secret–especially keeping it a secret that the claims against them were found sufficiently credible to warrant action–helps them to victimize others, especially in countries which aren’t privy to the American rumour mill.Report
What do you mean by “constructive”?Report
Generally speaking, I don’t think that public shaming improves things. You probably think that for most crimes, there are limits to how much public shaming we should do. Punishment is a pretty weak tool in general. That doesn’t mean that it should never be done, of course. But harsh punishments as a deterent are generally not very useful.Report
I think publicly exposing and publicly shaming are two different things. I think publicizing crimes and the prosecution of criminals, especially in these metoo cases, helps other victims. They realize that people are taking these things increasingly seriously, and that they needn’t suffer alone or in silence.
As much as I agree that the general punishment system for crimes doesn’t seem to stop crime the way we would hope it would, I’m not sure what your proposed solution would be?Report
Or you can just view punishment as an intrinsic good. Utilitarianism is a horror-show once you have sophisticated enough technology. I see no reason to let it guide our approach to punishment.Report
You don’t have to be a utilitarian to reject retributism, right? Probably most philosophers reject both, no?Report
If a certain level of information were not shared publicly then faculty who have sexually harassed graduate students would continue to receive invitations to speak at other campuses, putting new students at risk. So there’s more at stake here than shaming and punishment.Report
I’m very glad that the university has officially severed its ties with John Searle. I almost didn’t finish my philosophy PhD at Berkeley — in part because of the way he treated me personally and many other women graduate students there, but also because of the absolutely incredible amount of willful ignorance and gaslighting that faculty members in that department engaged in whenever women (and men) raised concerns about his behavior (and believe me, it was frequent).
To this day, the department has yet to issue a full-throated apology to those of us whom he harassed and sexualized, privately and publicly, sometimes on a daily basis. The faculty at Berkeley cannot claim that they didn’t know what was going on. People should know that absolutely nothing would have ever happened to Searle’s status at Berkeley had it not been for the incredible courage of Joanna Ong and Kristina Gehrman, among others, who took this public.Report
Thank you. Also, I’m sorry you almost didn’t finish — and glad you did!Report
What worries me is that we have started to use vague terms to describe happenings. From what I know about the case, it does seem that Searle’s behavior is beyond the pale and the university’s action is the right one.
At the same time, the vague term “sexual harassment” can be applied to behavior which is totally innocent as long as SOMEONE feels that it is not OK. Vague terms can be dangerous. If a US drone invading Iranian air space is shot down by Iran then it becomes “aggression against the US” which is actually thousands of miles from the location of the drone.
For instance, in a conversation on Facebook I had said that the great logicians of the XXth century were men. The people I had in mind were Russell, Turing, Hilbert and Goedel. For saying this, I was investigated by my university and there was an implicit threat that I would not be allowed to teach. That threat is now gone, but the atmosphere of intimidation remains.
Here is another example.
Some years ago I wrote a paper for a philosophy volume in which I had three examples. The three characters were referred to as “she”, “he” and then “she” again. When the proofs came to me, I saw that the two “she”s were left as they were but the middle “he”, actually a minority, had been turned into “he or she”. I protested to the editor and she restored my original. Are males not allowed to be mentioned in philosophy papers?
We need to be aware that there is a certain aggressiveness coming from people who consider themselves to be victims (and many are indeed victims). But the atmosphere being created can be dangerous, both for free speech and for the protection of innocent men.Report
This is an odd lesson to draw from this story, which seems to involve clear-cut wrong-doing over a sustained period with at least highly credible claims that this was too-widely known with nothing done about it. If you’re worried about ‘atmosphere’ and about an over-broad conception of harassment, you should be all the more concerned that the profession manages to deal properly, with due process but also due speed, with genuine predation. A widespread feeling that it does *not* so deal, with non-trivial evidence behind it, is as much responsible for the ‘atmosphere’ issues you raise as anything else is.Report
The man should be locked in a room by himself and only allowed to communicate by pushing out a piece of paper with writing on it…Report
Has the student’s lawsuit against Searle and Berkeley been settled? Is this action independent of the lawsuit?Report
There is no formal connection between the two, although there are inevitable practical entanglements between them. The University process has no preclusive effect for a civil suit, and the decision itself is unlikely to be part of any civil trial because of differences in evidentiary rules and processes. I suspect you care about the practical effects than the legal realtionship.Report
Can I make a positive suggestion to faculty about something you can do to address sexual harassment?
My experience is that most undergrads dont know anything about their rights under Title IX or their school’s policies on faculty-student “romantic”/sexual relations [these are not the same issue]. It’s easy to find out what students know–just ask for a show of hands of how many of your students have been fully informed about these policies. I suspect you will find hardly anyway. (A survey I did when at Oregon showed 7% knew about them.)
I would urge you to set aside 15-20 minutes in your classes and just go over what the laws/policies are. The basics can probably found on the website of your Title IX office. When I taught in the USA I offered to talk with them myself if they have a problem, but I am legally trained and have 25 years dealing with this issue. If you dont feel comfortable doing this, tell them a specific person they can contact–someone you know will actually listen/do something. .
Many students really dont know what constitutes sexual harassment. This starts with the fact many are young and just out of high school. The case that caused a conflict at Oregon a few years back involved a freshman woman during orientation week, just past her 18th birthday. Also, you may be able to help students who the system has ignored [send them to an atty, for example]. Here is the story a student of mine wrote whose rape was ignored by the university for almost a year: https://www.eugeneweekly.com/2015/05/28/dragged-through-the-mud/
I am happy to touch bases with anyone who might want to talk about this suggestion. Best to email me at [email protected]Report
PS – I should add that schools have a strong disincentive to inform students of their rights, for a number of reasons. For example, certain types of violations. Clery Act violations, need to publicly reported, and no administration wants to be known as a school where this sort of thing goes on. So they ensure there are no complaints by not telling students what they can complain about. This is why faculty have some responsibility for this as well.Report
I think this is a great idea. also, i think institutions could do more to train visiting faculty, especially international faculty, who may not know the ins and it’s of mandated reporting.Report
Great point. I think on top of training, they need to include some sort of system (like https://talktospot.com/) where employees can report harassment of any kind, anonymously if they choose. It is good for employers too to follow up and manage their company culture. But definitely start with education for all.Report
It is shameful that once upon a time, it was seen as more unethical to report harassment than to commit it. People were pressured, blamed or criticized for reporting the abuse, instead of the abuser. It is also shameful that a tradition that started with people like Socrates, Confucius and others asking what justice and virtue was ended up at a place like this by the time of the 20th century.Report
Like we have any idea how well the philosophers of antiquity behaved. Socrates was an upper-class man belonging to a culture that owned slaves! That’s about the single cultural background most likely to produce sexual violence that I can think of. Historically, most philosophers before the 20th century in the Western (and I suspect also the Chinese) tradition believed that women were inherently and naturally inferior to men. The idea that this is some kind of distinctively modern fall from a previous state of grace and moral seriousness amongst male philosophers is ludicrous. Not to mention that whilst Searle is not an ethicist the same philosopher can both behave badly personally and write intellectually serious stuff on justice and virtue. After all, another of the famous harassment cases of recent years involved Pogge, who seems to have been a serious critic of injustice from the developed world towards the developing.Report
This is good news, and I am deeply grateful to Kristina and others for their work on this. But, as many others here have suggested, this is, unfortunately, merely the tip of an iceberg.
There are, right now, several more “open secrets”, philosophers with a history of sexual harassment who nevertheless remain in their jobs, where they exert enormous power over their undergrads and grads. The problem isn’t just that these people are still employed. It’s that they still receive outside invitations for special lectures, keynotes, contributions to volumes, and so on.
Our profession has never had a true #MeToo moment. We need a reckoning, and it cannot just be junior women who carry it out. We need senior people of all genders to step up, to ask questions, to listen, to consider who they’re inviting to their colloquia and conferences, who they’re hiring, what kinds of policies they have in their own departments, and so on.Report
JSNMKL, writes “Our profession has never had a true #MeToo moment. We need a reckoning.”
What more, exactly, would it take for our profession to have a #MeToo moment? Accusations have been made very publicly, people have been fired and ostracized, the APA has started a Site Visit program that put at least one department in receivership after it broke its pledge of confidentiality and dumped a report on the desk of outside administrators, our division meetings often include special sessions on the issue of sexual harassment, the topic is ubiquitously discussed, with practically everyone lining up on the side of doing more to bring wrongdoers to justice, case after case is discussed on the prominent blogs long after the dust has settled. But this, to you, has not yet been a true #MeToo moment, and you call for a reckoning beyond anything we have seen before.
Could you please describe what you would like this ‘reckoning’ to involve?Report
Here’s a really basic thing a lot of faculty in these departments can do.
Stop lying to female prospective students. Stop doing it. Cut it out right now. Vow not to do it again. If you can’t tell the truth about your colleague, at least stop knowingly saying false things about him (“Women work fine with him!”). At least consider telling the full truth (“Some women over the years have reported problems”).
Based on my many and extensive discussions with folks on this topic, a lot of faculty think that the grad students can be counted on to “tell the truth” to the prospective students, and so the faculty can “keep their hands clean.” But in the worst departments, the grad students lie too. Why? A deep seated, faculty driven culture of silence, even around well known open secrets.
Faculty, especially male faculty, especially the male tenured faculty: stop passing the buck to the female graduate students in your department!Report
I think these “open secrets” are often not as open as you might think. I’m an assistant professor myself and know lots of people in the profession all over the world, but I really don’t know who these famous people are who you might be talking about. I didn’t know about (for example) Searle, Pogge, or McGinn until those cases were posted about on Leiter/Daily Nous either. And I don’t know any people in my current or previous departments who may have been harassers, nor do I know about anyone in any of my friends’ departments. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but I think this type of information may often be quite local. That or I’m totally out of the loop. But if so, I don’t think I’m the only one.Report
I find it difficult to give much weight to or take anyone here seriously who refuses to disclose their identity when discussing such an important topic, except in the case of a direct target or victim of sexual harassment. Beyond this single exception, I find the practice suspect. One may claim he or she needs anonymity for some reason or another, and it may even be the case that such anonymity is warranted; but if that be the case, then he or she ought to self-censor. If such anonymity is appropriate, then the person ought to recognize that his or her posts are immediately suspect and the person ought to minimally disclose his or her position(s) up front -overtly, not inferentially. Otherwise, no one can be certain of that person’s motivations. He or she might be a former or active predator, or just as well an adjudicator, or an observer. We have no idea of the motivations of those who speak here without disclosing their identity. I am especially concerned about those contributors who vociferously stake-out positions of a general nature, then make moves that attempt to assign their general statements as applicable to specific instances cited by others, and who then go on to attempt to require those others to address their specific circumstances to the general terms laid out by said contributor. It’s an absurd expectation.
I’m signing anonymously in protest to the practice of claiming anonymity beyond that rightfully belonging to targets and victims of sexual abuse and harassment.Report
I don’t understand your protest and am glad that anonymous and semi-anonymous outlets have always been a way of registering protest against de-facto or common norms. Daily Nous isn’t reddit, it isn’t 4chan. It’s a fairly civil space where people are, thanks mostly to Justin’s efforts at tone-setting, free to share thoughtful, if controversial, views on the profession. Views that, were they not semi-anonymous, might subject them to sanction by one political or ideological faction or another within the discipline. You, oh protester, are free to articulate your moral arguments against this sort of anonymity (or not), but I, for one, believe that honest discourse often requires a degree of pseudo-anonymity and that philosophy is best done under conditions which allow for honest discourse.Report
That’s the thing with arguments: they stand or fall on their own merits. As philosophers, we have all learned to pay attention to the arguments and not the source of those arguments (i.e. we’ve learned not to commit the ad hominem fallacy). Unless someone is claiming to have experienced something directly and that experience is essential to his or her argument, the source of the argument is irrelevant at best.Report
“Unless someone is claiming to have experienced something directly and that experience is essential to his or her argument…”
Well, more optimistic,
Do you mean like the human beings above, philosophers, who asserted their first person experiences of harassment and/or assault? Those to whom you first said you were sorry for their troubles, but whom you also immediately began to interrogate in long-winded diatribes? And asked them why they, the victims and targets of sexual abuse and harassment, didn’t do more after the fact? Rather than asking the more important question which is: why aren’t we expecting more from the systems that exposed them to the abuse in the forest place, by allowing abusers and harassers to continue in their positions in those respective departments?
Hey, I’m just asking because, your position seems, well, disingenuous at best.Report
Anonymous Again in Protest,
Your question is a non sequitur. I said, in the clause you quoted, that, unless a premise in one’s argument cannot be verified without relying on the testimony of the arguer, then one does not need to know the identity of the arguer to assess the argument. I never said, nor would it be reasonable to say, that one should never ask any questions of people providing testimony. Why would anyone think that?
Your charge that I’ve “interrogated” people in “diatribes” is also way off-base. A diatribe is a harsh, bitter attack on someone or something. What have I been bitterly attacking? I have merely been trying to point out the obvious fact that the evidence as presented here and elsewhere doesn’t seem to establish the conclusions so many people draw from it: namely, that sexual harassment is extensive in the profession and that nobody is currently willing to do about it. I have suggested that it would be better, in the absence of clearer evidence that there is a worse problem than elsewhere, to focus our attention on ensuring that we deal with the problems that exist while taking care not to overstate the case and drive women away from the discipline with horror stories. I have asked questions to help get a better understanding of what is going on in case I’m missing something. That’s not a ‘diagribe’. I have said, when I asked a question, that I understand if the person who made the statement didn’t want to discuss the question further. That’s not what one does in an ‘interrogation’. It does not add credibility to your case for you to use words to mean what they do not mean.
What I tried to learn through asking questions was quite simple. My view is, I think, the normal one: that one should report people who act wrongfully: if the body to whom one reports the harassment does not investigate and pursue the matter, and it’s a clearly serious one, then one should report the lack of action to the body that oversees the original body; that if an entire institution fails to do anything, covering up a case in which there is clear evidence of significant wrongdoing, then there is good evidence of internal corruption and it is likely that others are being harmed by it, and it is right to bring the matter to the attention to those outside of the institution to help correct the problem. I know that there are generally extensive resources in place to deal with even problems that get to that level, not the least of which is Title IX, under which entire universities can lose their status (and vast sums of money) if they are not sufficiently zealous in their war against harassment. If those measures are not working somehow, then it seems relevant to try to ascertain where the process is breaking down, doesn’t it? Why shouldn’t one ask where along the road that didn’t work? But even that was not the main point of what I’ve been writing here, which is that several anecdotal reports of X in Y cannot tell us the extent of X in Y, nor can it give us any basis for comparing the incidents of X in Y as opposed to non-Y. And yet, here and elsewhere, we are told repeatedly that X must be pervasive in Y, and much worse than in non-Y, because of a handful of cases of X in a far larger Y and some additional, vague anecdotes about X in Y. This is not rocket science here. We are all philosophers, and should have no problem with such a simple question of whether the pervasiveness hypothesis follows from the premises at hand.
You ask in a previous comment why people like me need anonymity on this forum. Your response to me provides the answer to that question. It is because, when it comes to matters like this one, many members of the profession seem to forget all the philosophical training they have undergone since freshman year, jettison the principle of charity, and insist that everyone stand in formation and chant the correct platitudes loudly and clearly. Those who fail to do so in any way, or who ask for clarification or point out that we might know this but we don’t yet know that, is read as the enemy, even if nothing they have said or asked remotely implies that. Would you like us to take off our masks and speak in our own names? So would I. But we cannot do that until we can be safe making fairly anodyne points without thereby risking professional ostracism at the hands of people who suddenly can’t hear anything we’re actually saying.Report
My question isn’t a non sequitur, nor did I misread what you said. And, I don’t read you as some enemy; I never used or implied that word or idea and this is clear to anyone who has read my words. If you want to talk about charity, then please don’t try to couch my very important argument in terms of fallacy merely because you are caught out by it: the answers to your posed questions specifically require the testimony of the arguer, because it is the arguer who was been attacked or harassed. We’re not playing some game of philosophical chess here, these are not merely thought experiments; these testimonies involving human beings who have been harmed. They deserve our utmost respect and our best thinking, not our defensive moves in protection of our semi-public reputations. It ain’t about we who haven’t been harassed or attacked in these departments, neither is it about our social or professional egos; it’s about those who have been wronged and harmed in these departments. So, let’s don’t pretend we’re arguing past one another because, we’re most definitely not. You claim you want to adhere to philosophical principles of charity, yet you assigned motives to me that I do not hold. If you want to know how I see your argument, simply ask me how I see your argument. I’ll tell you. I’ve been telling you, and you can see there is no mystery.
For the record, I read your argument as possibly well-intentioned but definitely poorly situated and tone deaf. I think it is based on the assumption of powers from an authority that does not exist; I read this as an imagined authority in which one person attempts to hold that he or she has power over injured protesters seeking redress, as long as he or she adheres to the party line while interrogating the person(s) seeking redress. It is an argument that appeals to your own imagined authority and some extended institutional authority: the very authority in question. But, this is a public forum, disconnected from those institutional hierarchies and only loosely affiliated with them. Other than those simple few rules proposed here, this not a regulated medium. As such you have no more authority than any other speaker. You talked about ad hominem, let’s not use its contraposition to assume you’re in some position of authority that does not exist. To me, practically, your argument comes off as heavy-handed, especially given that you are in no such position of authority with respect to this medium and the people here. Also, I tell you now that such an idea that the will of institutional authority will prevail always has a shelf life in particular instances, and especially in those where there is harm being done to innocent persons. Subscribing to inappropriate institutional authority is a mistake; this is because such authority will only hold as long as those seeking redress cannot break through. Even on the institutional view, the idea that power cannot be taken is bursting at its seams; it is cracking. It’s the very reason for the emergence of Title IX remedies. The moment those who’ve been harmed collectively push to shatter that paradigm -and they are gaining remarkable momentum- the whole eminence-front illusion collapses. Shouting them down will not abate their growing surge. Ergo, I’m just saying this particular hook may be a poor strategic choice when considering where to hang one’s philosophical compassion hat.
Let me just say further that I think your argument assumes the processes and people necessary to address these issues are already properly in place; it appears to assume that none of the process itself is corrupt to any truly damaging extent, and that the systems will function correctly if only one will simply and properly avail oneself of those systems -as if many haven’t tried this already. I read your argument, throughout this thread, to be an argument that assumes this process, over the years and contrary to historical facts, has been functional from the outset, has not had to evolve, and that it is not still evolving. Such an argument misreads the present state of affairs as 1) the state of affairs that has always existed, and 2) that this state of affairs is workable. If this is not your argument, then why would you assign the responsibility for addressing the shortcomings of the system, throughout this system’s existence, to those who suffered abuse and harassment decades ago and even to the present day? By offering questions to ensure they’ve checked some series of imagined boxes that are “correct” by your reasoning and interpretation, you offer a straw man through which you completely misdirect and dismiss their factual experiences. It is an argument that assumes the people assigned to positions who process and who adjudicate these issues always act with integrity if one will only “try harder.” And, it appears to assume that it cannot be possible that the people or the processes fail to any significant extent. Else, why would you keep putting the responsibility for the failing system on the backs of those already victimized?
Yet, such an argument is clearly not true, based on those people’s experiences who have given personal testimony to the contrary -directly to you in these comment threads- that the system has performed perfectly -or even well. The opposite is true according to them. This system has failed them. And, it continues to fail. We have consistent, repeated, and well-documented evidence of the failures. Those harmed have gotten little help and continue to get little help and little support. In some cases they’ve gotten no help and been pushed aside. The process is purposefully convoluted and confounding; it lends aid and comfort to the harassers and abusers and it specifically advantages the harassers and abusers while disadvantaging the targets and victims. This is because of the perception that there is a need to protect the reputations of the persons and institutions involved. And, let us make no mistake: the administrative and staff players have skin in the game and they know where their bread is buttered. They don’t receive paychecks from the victims of abuse and harassment, they receive paychecks from the institutions, which by definition makes them beholden to those institutions. The people above are saying their cases were not properly heard. Will we too refuse to hear them now, even where there is no institution to protect? Will we assert the institutions’ corrupted arguments here? Why would any group of decent people do such a thing?
Now I ask: how many times and to how many people ought these persons who have been harmed be required to recount attacks on their person to, in order to satisfy yet another person’s skepticism before they will get relief? Just you? Ten more? One hundred more? One thousand more? What we already know is that relief is not coming for them. We have absolutely failed some. So, I also ask you, when do we as a community resolve to treat them with respect and not batter them further? Why do your questions matter at all? Are your questions designed to effect some change in philosophy departments across the country and around the world? Do you have a plan? Are you going to do something with the answers? Are you working with others to fix this problem? Or, are you merely interrogating these people in order to enjoy the philosophical process of questioning in order to improve your skill while peeling back the layers of their vulnerability? What is your purpose? I ask because several have stepped up and shared their experiences to the degree they are willing in this semi-public forum, but you just keep asking more questions in what appears to be a seemingly endless interrogation. To what end? What’s your plan? Where do we go from here? Why do you keep trying to place responsibility on those who’ve already endured the offense, followed by enduring a too often corrupted process, to great personal pain and anguish, some of whom have not received justice? What is your goal? In what specific ways do you propose to help these and other people suffering this ongoing corrupted process? After all, lending assistance and trying to fix the problem must be the basis for your questions. Right? Share the plan with us.
What I am suggesting to you that when people begin to listen with the intention of helping those who have been harmed, and not merely as a means to check some list of boxes that fail to account for the scope of the reality of people’s experiences and serve only to protect principals and institutions, only then will we make progress.Report
Ugh. You write:
> “My question isn’t a non sequitur, nor did I misread what you said.”
I _attempted to show_ that your question was a non sequitur. You are _asserting_ that it is not.
> “I don’t read you as some enemy; I never used or implied that word or idea and this is clear to anyone who has read my words.”
You don’t see me as some enemy of the forces that will bring justice to the profession? Okay, if you say so. But I’ll revise that if you continue to speak as if I am.
> “…please don’t try to couch my very important argument in terms of fallacy merely because you are caught out by it: the answers to your posed questions specifically require the testimony of the arguer, because it is the arguer who was been attacked or harassed.”
I am not calling your reasoning fallacious because I’ve been “caught out” by your “very important argument”. I’m calling it fallacious because it’s a blatant fallacy. I said that, unless an argument involves a premise that can only be assessed if one knows who the speaker is (most commonly, when the premise involves testimony that would be credible if presented by some speakers but not others), one should assess an argument without reference to the person making that argument. This is a straightforward matter that will be understood by anyone who understands the ad hominem fallacy. You seemed to think you had “caught me out” because you imagined it followed from this principle that I needed to accept the testimony of anyone who claimed that sexual harassment is extensive in the profession. But there are two problems with that reply. First, it doesn’t follow from the claim that is only legitimate to consider the source of an argument when it provides testimony that anyone who provides testimony should not be questioned. Second, The testimony a victim of harassment can provide does not address the question at hand, which is how extensive that harassment is. Again, these are non sequiturs. If you think they are not, then please show _how_ you derive the conclusions from the premises, rather than just _asserting_ that your conclusions follow.
> “We’re not playing some game of philosophical chess here, these are not merely thought experiments; these testimonies involving human beings who have been harmed. They deserve our utmost respect and our best thinking,”
I agree, it’s not some game of philosophical chess. There are big issues involved, and policies will be put in place and people will be warned off philosophy on the basis of this conversation. People can suffer injustice by being harassed without redress, and they can suffer injustice by being unjustly attacked. What we need to do is think things through reasonably and carefully. If that’s what you mean by giving the matter our best thinking, I’m all for it.
> “For the record, I read your argument as possibly well-intentioned but definitely poorly situated and tone deaf. I think it is based on the assumption of powers from an authority that does not exist; I read this as an imagined authority in which one person attempts to hold that he or she has power over injured protesters seeking redress…”
You’ve lost me here. I don’t know what you mean by an assumption of powers from an authority that does not exist.
> “Let me just say further that I think your argument assumes the processes and people necessary to address these issues are already properly in place; it appears to assume that none of the process itself is corrupt to any truly damaging extent…”
Again, you mention my ‘argument’. I don’t know what argument you’re referring to. I have at no point assumed that there is no corruption in the process whose purpose is to address issues of harassment. I just explained this to you so that you wouldn’t make this error, but you seem to have ignored what I said. Again: my view is that if one doesn’t get a satisfactory response to a complaint of injustice at one level, then one should bring a complaint to a higher level; and if it’s corruption all the way to the top, then one should take action to expose the corruption in that institution and then work for change. I know there are many systems in place now to avoid the possibility of corruption: I want to know where, if at all, those systems failed. And to find that out, I had to ask a question about what happened. That is all.
> “…how many times and to how many people ought these persons who have been harmed be required to recount attacks on their person to, in order to satisfy yet another person’s skepticism before they will get relief?”
Well, if I had been unjustly harmed, or knew of someone who had, and if I also discovered that an institution was involved in a cover-up while doing nothing to remedy the problem, I would make clear the basis for the complaint and try to bring others on board or at least to show others that the cause for complaint was real. Of course that doesn’t mean that I would recount the evidence personally to everyone who needed to be involved. But if it seemed best to report the matter to some officer, I would tell him or her all the relevant facts. And if the only way forward seemed to require bringing in the general public, I would write up a clear account of what had gone wrong in the process so far and make that publicly available.
In this case, all we have are some anonymous people presenting anecdotal evidence. Neither I nor anyone else has tried to figure out who those people are or otherwise compromise their privacy. We are simply asking questions about what allegedly happened so that we can better understand the issue. It’s really hard to see why you find that so objectionable.Report
Since you already know that you aren’t going to get any substantive answers to your questions, you must also know there is no value to be gained by your questions. And, you aren’t going to do anything productive with the answers because, none of the answers will be will be substantive enough for productive use. So, what is the point of you grilling victims of sexual harassment and sexual abuse? I think everyone here will draw their own conclusions.Report
By ‘grilling’, do you mean ‘asking questions’? That’s not the same thing.
I’m aware that there are many processes and protocols at all universities in the US and in many other countries that seek to prevent cover-ups of the sort described here. I’m aware of many administrators, lawyers, etc. at most schools whose job is to prevent these sorts of things. There are many departments and universities that have landed in hot water precisely because they were not sufficiently sanguine in persecuting alleged harassers. Meanwhile, due process has famously gone out the window in many of the fact-finding procedures. All that is well-known.
On the other hand, I hear reports of ongoing harassment: from the allegations I heard above, John Searle had been a notorious and blatant harasser for decades. This makes me wonder where the weak link is in the chain, and how such a thing can still be possible. If the weak link in that case is lower down within the Berkeley structure, then why wouldn’t someone higher up have got a report and done something about it? If the answer is that the entire institution was complicit in a cover-up, why wasn’t there a Title IX action against the school, etc.? It’s natural to wonder that, and getting a sense of the kind of answer one can get is useful in making sense of the phenomenon more generally.
Then, someone else, anonymously, told a story about a his or her old university. In that story, there was a harasser in the department; people complained about the harasser in a climate survey, but this was ignored; more evidence came to light that made the department realize that there was indeed a harasser; the former student was called in and re-told the story he or she had previously reported with others in the survey, and the faculty gave the impression of surprise about all this and said they had never heard such a thing before. It’s an interesting story, and it was clearly intended to cast light on how these things work. But how had this happened, and what lesson should one draw? One would think that giving students a chance to fill out a survey like that would be an effective way of getting warning signs. But in this case, apparently, the students reported the harasser in the survey, but either the survey was never read by the appropriate people or else they did read it and then they pretended that they hadn’t. But presumably, in the latter case, there would be an electronic or paper trail of the original survey, and that could be given to someone higher up as evidence that the department had sat on information about the harasser. Etc. Whatever it was, it’s useful to get a sense of how these things can go wrong.
You asked me yesterday, “Rather than asking the more important question which is: why aren’t we expecting more from the systems that exposed them to the abuse in the forest place, by allowing abusers and harassers to continue in their positions in those respective departments?” Now you have your answer. I’m asking because I want to understand what is going wrong with the systems that exposed them to the abuse in the first place.Report
Public Notice: Name Change
Henceforth “Againinprotestofanonymity” and anyname x-“protestofanonymity” will be posting as “Loci.Cantos”.
I’m a bit confused. Your original post here was a criticism of people posting anonymously: with the exception of testimony from abuse survivors, you said, there is no good reason to post anonymously, and anonymous posts should be discounted. (I have at least some sympathy with the view, though I think there’s also a place for stable pseudonymy.)
You posted anonymously, which I thought was a bit strange, but your pseudonym was ‘anonymous in protest of anonymity’ or somesuch, so I thought maybe it was just a way of making a point and you’d shortly be posting under your real name. (You weren’t offering abuse testimony, so your narrow exemption doesn’t seem to apply). But you’ve now abandoned that name in favor of a different pseudonym. If I took your original advice, shouldn’t I now ignore you?Report
Yes. You should ignore me if in your estimation my claim vs. my action is inconsistent and you believe this contradiction is sufficient evidence that I am not to be trusted.
But I’ll argue that reading my protest of anonymity as merely a blanket protest against anonymity, without purpose, is not a coherent reading of my intentions as stated. My argument is an argument against those who may attempt to use anonymity as a rampart to hide behind for the purposes badgering or otherwise treating others rudely or unfairly, or of attempting to induce others to meet unreasonable expectations that go well beyond the scope of this medium. For example, some people who may have been victimized by a predator and who are involved in legal proceedings, are not going to answer legal or overly personal questions about their experiences respective cases here which could unduly expose material facts, nor should they. And, they should not be attacked or badgered because of this by anonymous persons who lay in wait for them. I think I’ve I made this quite clear. If not, then I do so here. For example, one out-take from that original post you cite is quoted here:
“I am especially concerned about those [anonymous] contributors who vociferously stake-out positions of a general nature, then make moves that attempt to assign their general statements as applicable to specific instances cited by others, and who then go on to attempt to require those others to address their specific circumstances to the general terms laid out by said contributor. It’s an absurd expectation.”
Now, you can read my words on this thread in any way you choose. And, you are free to make your own estimate of my sincerity or lack of sincerity based on my words, as can everyone who visits this thread. But you can’t read my protest as merely a blanket protest against anonymity generally, my objections are specific, they reject any attempt by a anonymous persons to badger or re-victimize those who’ve already suffered.
Beyond this, there are There are several issues here that are in conflict. One is the problem of anonymity when discussing important issues. Another is the problem of targeting by choosing anonymity either temporarily or permanently. Another is the issue of “sockpuppeting” as identified in the Comments Policy section for Daily Nous. Finally there is the apparent common name functioning as a pseudonym (e.g., is “David Jones” a real person’s name in a given case, or might it merely be a real sounding name?). Each of these has contributed to my decision to choose a pseudonym.Report
Look, I agree with the view that people shouldn’t use anonymity to badger survivors. (I think people shouldn’t do it non-anonymously either!) But your original post was making a much broader point: you said,
“I find it difficult to give much weight to or take anyone here seriously who refuses to disclose their identity when discussing such an important topic, except in the case of a direct target or victim of sexual harassment. Beyond this single exception, I find the practice suspect. One may claim he or she needs anonymity for some reason or another, and it may even be the case that such anonymity is warranted; but if that be the case, then he or she ought to self-censor.”
That isn’t a case that certain people in this conversation are abusing anonymity; it’s a statement that *no-one* should be anonymous, except in one narrow category, and that you (and, by implication, others) shouldn’t take anonymous people seriously. Hence my assumption that your own instructions were to ignore you.
(But, this is scarcely an important point. If your current position is as stated here, that’s fine. People are allowed to rephrase and add nuance to things they say. I followed it up more out of curiosity about the apparent performative contradiction than for any deeper reason.)Report