Koch Use Causes Rift in Philosophy Department


“The depth of the conflict in the Department is troubling.”

That’s from a report by Jennifer A. McHugh, an outside lawyer appointed by the Ohio attorney general’s office to investigate allegations of corruption, harassment, bullying, and bias in the Department of Philosophy at Bowling Green University, according to an article at The Chronicle of Higher Education (sign in required).

[Lee Krasner, “Shattered Light” (detail)]

McHugh “did not find ‘nefarious misconduct’ or actions made in bad faith,” but wrote that “the rifts within the department ran deep and could at times be toxic.”

Trouble began during the making of a shortlist of candidates to fill a junior position in 2015:

Christian Coons, an associate professor, felt that there was at least one person in the pool who didn’t belong. Brandon Warmke was not as well-versed as some of the other candidates in the history of philosophy, the topic the new hire would teach, Coons said. In an email, he told a colleague that he thought another applicant was better….

“The application alone leaves out critical information that is very important,” Kevin Vallier, an associate professor, wrote back.

That’s a strange thing to say in the context of an academic hire. The Chronicle does not report what else, if anything, was said in that reply, or to what extent anyone clarified what that “critical information” is in a subsequent discussion. The Chronicle article continues:

Warmke was hired in 2016. Three years later, Bowling Green announced that it had received a $1.6-million grant for its philosophy, politics, economics, and law program. That meant the philosophy department, which had shrunk in recent years, would be able to hire two new tenure-track faculty members and support two graduate fellowships. For a small department, it was a life raft.

The infusion could have meant a new era of stability for the department. That’s not what happened. Instead, Bowling Green’s philosophy department turned into a war zone. Professors who once edited books together are no longer on speaking terms. Colleagues have filed complaints against each other, prompting investigations. At least one faculty member left Bowling Green for another job. Graduate students felt ill at ease in the department.

The grant was from the Charles Koch Foundation, an organization which promotes (rightwing) libertarianism by funding academic programs that teach students about it and supporting faculty and researchers whose work advocates for or enhances the academic reputation of libertarian ideas.

Coons suspected that the “critical information” about the candidate that Vallier referred to was the candidate’s connection to the Koch Foundation or his willingness and ability to seek funding from it. The Chronicle reports:

Coons tried to find out what had happened to an investigation that had been launched after he sent his narrative to the dean about the 2015-16 search, but he said an open-records request turned up very little. He said that he was never able to submit evidence for the investigation and didn’t find out when it was completed. Later on, the outside lawyer’s report on Coons’s allegations referenced the earlier investigation and a report that found “misunderstandings, inconsistencies, and procedural errors in the search process” but “no provable conspiracy, manipulation, or intention to disrupt the search.”

Looking back, department chair Michael Weber said that the 2015 search “had issues,” and The Chronicle relays that “several faculty members, including Coons, were upset with how the process had unfolded, for various reasons. [Assistant Professor Molly] Gardner voted for Warmke, but told The Chronicle she had felt pressured to do so.” Gardner left Bowling Green last year for the University of Florida.

According to The Chronicle, “the agreement between the Charles Koch Foundation and Bowling Green explicitly states that the selection of program directors, assistant professors, and graduate fellowships will follow the university’s normal procedures,” and Weber “didn’t see any way that the foundation could exert influence on the department.”

Yet when it came time to fill the grant-funded positions:

Coons wasn’t the only philosophy professor who was worried that the department was, intentionally or not, becoming entwined in the Koch network. Gardner, who served on the hiring committee, said, “It felt to me like some candidates whose values were not in harmony with Charles Koch Foundation values were removed from consideration.”

Additionally, there were concerns about the ways in which opportunities were distributed in the department. Gardner, says The Chronicle,

worried that the graduate students would have to censor their political views or risk losing professional opportunities. “Students who endorse conservative values are offered scholarship opportunities, seminar opportunities, and other networking opportunities that students with more liberal values seem less likely to receive,” she said.

The article contains quotes from graduate students complaining about the climate in the department.

For some more information, see The Chronicle. The picture that emerges is of a department that appears to suffer from a lack of transparency and an excess of acrimony. What’s missing from that picture is a clear enough depiction of the details that might allow us to conclude much more than that.


UPDATE: Christian Coons, on Twitter, calls The Chronicle article “inaccurate for its glaring omissions”, saying, “it’s so much worse than described here, and our students are not at all conspiratorial, nor am I.”

[Disclosures: The Koch Foundation has been an advertiser at Daily Nous. I also took part in a workshop hosted by the BGSU Philosophy Department in 2014.]

 

Related: “Untangling the Strings: The Limits of Acceptable Donor Influence in Academia“, “Private Money in Political Philosophy

Note about commenting on this post: if your comment involves a personal attack on someone, a necessary (but not sufficient) condition of your comment being approved and remaining visible is that you submit it with your full real name and your institutional email address (email addresses are not made public).

Additional note (5/27/21): Someone attempting to violate the above commenting requirement submitted 13 different comments using 4 different handles (also not allowed). All of this person’s comments have been removed and this person has now been blocked from commenting on the site. If you hear about me “deleting comments,” these are the kinds of people I’m dealing with.

Update (5/27/21): Pausing commenting for the night, possibly longer.

 

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Joe Mara
3 months ago

These things are so hard to judge from outside. It seems rather clear that there is a rift – involving personal and political issues – in the department and that that rift was either caused, in some way, or exacerbated by the involvement of the Koch Foundation. Beyond that, it’s hard to say.

I think that anytime a department accepts money or funds from what is, in essence, a private sponsor with some political position or agenda, things can get messy real quick. Even if the terms are, on the face of it, politically neutral and the sponsor acts fairly, the very act of acceptance gives the sponsor power of recognition and advertisement and, in one way or another, a power in relation to the university. Moreover, it’s unlikely that the people with power of the gift would be not aligned with the political agenda and even if they are, again, acting political neutrally, they cannot really act independently of their view of what the right view is, I take it. Still, it is a shame that this is how philosophy is being increasingly sponsored in the USA – either by politically oriented funds (on the right, Koch and, some say – not sure it’s correct, APA on the left) or more religious oriented funds (like Templeton).Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Joe Mara
3 months ago

It’s not about political disputes at BGSU. It’s about corruption, lying, and abuse. I don’t know why the article is cast this way. We were all in favor it before we got it. I’ll try to address this if I have the energy here https://twitter.com/coons_christianReport

Joe Mara
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

I think the article made clear (at least I thought) that one side, represented by you and others, views (and perhaps has experienced) things in the way you describe as amounting to corruption and so on. But it seems also clear that another part of the department does not see things this way. Perhaps there are others, more neutral in this, that’s unclear. In any case, my point simply was that it is impossible to judge things of this sort from outside. Some cases are not like this – for example, when a state government/officials interfere with hiring or close programs/departments by decree or cut funding for political reasons – the act is impersonal and visible and we can all assess its harms (or benefits). This is not the case here – all we rely on are reports of how people saw or experienced certain things that happened within a department. In my experience of a few departments where such crises arose, the sides who were in conflict generally had very different memories and interpretations of those events and weighed what matters very differently – what some viewed as a rather reasonable concern, others viewed as dishonest or even malicious interference – consequently, one side interpreted what others said about what happened as lying (since it was not a reasonable concern but interference) while the other side saw this one as (at best) negatively biased. In the end, after years, there was not much one could do but let go (or not and remain forever bitter). In any case, this is not to say that there is no truth of the matter here or that there was or wasn’t corruption – it’s just to say that from the outside, it looks like a mess that one is not in a position to evaluate.

On another note, hires that reflect some political reasons are not by themselves unusual or bad. We hire people because they bring grant money, because they contribute to diversity, because they personally really fit in the department, because they have good connections to people there, and so on. Rarely are these decisive reasons, but they are often taken into account. We are political animals, not reasoning machines. This is very different from political hires in totalitarian regimes, where political agents are directly inserted into the departments to keep them in check or people are fired for political reasons (as dissidents). It does seem, from the article, that Warmke’s hire might have had political aspects of the former kind, but certainly not of the latter.Report

Christian Coons
3 months ago

The real story here is not about a “rift” any more than a story of abuse, righteous objection and then still more abuse is a story of a rift. I’m so tired, and there are lot of voices afraid to speak. I have no explanation for why this piece paints things as it does. But there is a much bigger story here.Report

Concerned Prof
Concerned Prof
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Christian, is there anything more specific you can say about the nature of the abuse you refer to, without disclosing something confidential? You have referred to abuse a number of times here and on Twitter, but the article doesn’t mention anything about this, focusing instead on charges of politically-motivated hires. (Indeed, I take it that’s part of what you object to about the article.) It would be helpful to those trying to digest all of this if we could know what sort of thing we’re talking about here when you say ‘abuse’, even if it’s still painted in broad strokes.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Concerned Prof
3 months ago

I’m disciplined just for reporting what happened. Among a zillion other things. It’s dangerous to even say anything. See above.

Another example is Warmke reporting me for sharing the dean’s sentiment that if our department does not shape up and stop “circling the wagons” and being dishonest, the department could get some sort of death penalty (he threatened receivership twice). Vallier, Warmke and their collaborators reported this as though they were afraid I was going to physically harm people. Warmke said he was afraid I was going physically harm him (I’d never said or done anything alarming to him in any way shape or form, I thought he was my friend). This was part of the first complaint filed. It’s endless. If they want me to leave, they need to not be so abusive that I can’t even get an application together.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Hi Christian, I’d like to ask you four (sets of) questions about the real story that’s not in the article.

  1. How many formal grievances have been filed against you over the past ten years at BGSU?
  2. What did the university’s independent investigators find during these investigations? Did they side against you?
  3. Why do you think, in light of the answers to 1 and 2 (which you and I both know) that this is proof a conspiracy against you or corruption by others, rather than evidence that impugns you?
  4. If you have further evidence that vindicates you, why not come out and say it? (Perhaps you know you would lose a libel or slander suit, so you are keeping it vague to avoid that?)

Relatedly, Warmke took something like 9 classes in the history of philosophy as a grad student, so I am unsure why he is unqualified, as the article says. Of course, Warmke already has an incredibly impressive resume that would suffice to earn him tenure anywhere, whereas Coons’ CV is much weaker despite him being much older.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Please read the question posed for you above. As you may know already, you’re part of the story of the corruption in our department. Ask Mr. Vallier. We can talk about that story too, it just came up in another disciplinary act Vallier filed against me–Vallier who jointly filed his complaint in support with Warmke’s above. Starting to see how things work around here? Maybe it’s time to disavow some people rather than defending themReport

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Christian, how am I part of the story about corruption? I am not a member of BGSU. I wasn’t being considered for a job there at any time you were there. You need to be careful not to slander or libel me, because I will sue you.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Did you ask Kevin? If he’s ok with me saying, I will say. Saying you’re part of the story does not imply you’re corrupt. But info from you was used for what I would call corrupt ends, Vallier denies those ends were really corrupt but instead served an important purpose in evaluating members of our pool. I still disagree, we can litigate it in public if you like. Get his permission and I will make our dispute on this issue explicit. I will omit the name of the candidate this information was used to exclude. Vallier does not report whether you told him directly, only that you were the source of the information. I think you’re going to find, eventually, that I’m not someone who deserves to be sued. I’m upset, but try very hard to be honest and fair.Report

Trout
Trout
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

If Christian Coons’ claims are true–that the university is backing his colleagues in covering up an illegal hire, then the fact that the university sides with his colleagues and their formal grievances is evidence of nothing.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Trout
3 months ago

Christian Coons, like Lewis’s Jesus, is either a madman, a liar, or a saint.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Definitely not a liar. And perhaps practically mad, but not cognitively.Report

Spencer
Spencer
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

It’s “Lord.” Jesus isn’t supposed to have been a saint. Plus “saint” is not alliterative.Report

Wes McMichael
Wes McMichael
Reply to  Spencer
3 months ago

That’s not Lewis’ formulation either, is it? I didn’t think he ever said the alliterative version, did he?Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Just because transparency is going to vindicate everything in the end. I’ll play along.

  1. 4 bundled in 2 disciplinary cases, only 1 had any legitimacy, I was trying to protect a colleague.Being rude/hostile seemed like the best technique to get to the bottom of it. A kind of “I demand answers!!” type email. It was imprudent and probably an impartial mistake too.
  2. I received an oral warning for the first. The second is still pending after I hired a lawyer. In the first case, the investigator didn’t even allow me to address the charges (which I was unaware of) . He cast is as a meeting “looking for my advice how to improve the department”. I was disciplined without even knowing I was part of a disciplinary process. To give you an example of how crazy it was. I complained about an apparently racist speaker we brought to campus (and Warmke knows–as we’ve discussed it as friends–I don’t think it tends to be helpful to make accusations of “racism”, we should be more fine grained). But this appeared to be the kind of racism even someone’s grandfather would recognize, and certainly “hateful.” When I asked why we invited him, the answer an answer I got was “diversity” and also something like “it would be good to have a talk on Islamic Philosophy” (yet he appeared to be an hatefully anti muslim too). It was not clear how that topic fits well with our aims at BGSU anyway, and he was not an accomplished scholar as far as anyone could tell, it was mystifying, so I asked. “Diversity” obviously seemed like a BS answer–I called it answering in “Bad faith” –BGSU ruled such accusations can be seen as THREATS (I swear to god,man).
  3. I don’t know about “conspiracies against me” –I just know I get treated like total crap, and can prove it. I’m barred from viewing candidate files as I’ve said. And when I make complaints they’ve barred my evidence. It’s crazy. As per corruption, there is no doubt of any kind to anyone who looks into it that the Warmke search was a wildly corrupt hire. And we know this is all about “something his dossier omits that can only be discussed privately in person.” The in-person discussion is about a big grant (millions) with faculty lines (he does not say Koch, nor any other else). The contours of such a grant come to light a year later. We’re directed not to talk about it in detail on university email. At this time I’m still silent and “playing ball.” I didn’t want to hurt the department. But then–unprompted–the department starting hurting me. These were the chair’s actions, cascading lies to try to cover up and facilitate what happened during the Warmke hire. I tried to resolve this “in-house” but got my head kicked in. Warmke and Vallier even helped me, but Vallier warned “no investigations” or we all lose–we need to not jeopardize the Koch money. I complied. One got opened by the school anyway–a “fake” one and I was not going to lie and take the fall on things. I did anyway, and when I complained about that, I got was cast the Koch cohort as a public safety threat, etc. It’s real bad.
  4. Why not further evidence? I can do that, I’ll probably have to. Documents already exist, but 1) some contain confidential information. 2) I’m so so tired of writing documents and presenting evidence and it all just goes no where. 3) The last time I did this it was the basis for more discipline against me, not because it was false but because it was allegedly disrespectful violating “diversity and community” standards. The original complaints were that I’d defamed them, but truth is a defense to that, so admin switched to the speech-chilling “disrespect” charge. Further discipline was recommended but still pending. 4) People like you and others in my department threaten lawsuits, these could cost me a lot even if I’d win. 5) I honestly keep waiting for people to come forward and admit things, or a third party to finally step in, end all of this. 6) I’ve got a lawyer who may drop me (thousands spent would down the drain) if I keep talking, I told him I’d try not to, I didn’t see this article coming. 7) Every time I speak, bad things happen, and it’s not a coincidence. Look at the sort of this things Chris S says about me, a false narrative is being promoted. And you know what the saddest thing of all to me is? Kevin Vallier knows it’s a false narrative and he’s not stepping in, he’s letting you guys suggest things he knows are false. I backed him, I protected him, he asked favors of me for this grant, and I granted them. Then we were sold out. The network is thicker than your fellow peers or people he had fall on the sword for him. A person who fought to have him hired. I’m not a libertarian. But I’m old fashioned enough to think that political philosophy that begins there is the most fruitful. The fascinating lesson about our experience at BGSU is that the “Strings attached” model of Koch granting This will repeat itself over and over again, unless members of the “network” acknowledge BGSU’s actors were exceptional, and not representative of IHS/Koch or its aims. I’m not allowed to see application files man?! I got regarded a public safety threat for a email a good email (in context), I’ll probably share that at some point. I’m being disciplined just for saying we hired someone who was not qualified for the history teaching post (no one in the department is, except maybe Vallier). Come on, give me a break, Jason. Right? Right. Chris S should at least apologize. Consult Kevin privately, he will tell you I’m sure. Consult your own standards here, don’t play tribal/network stuff, I should be allowed to see files (that’s just a simple small example) they rest just takes a long time to explain and it’s treacherous.

Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Christian, what should I apologize for? There was literally an external investigation of your complaints. That investigation found nothing improper, or at least that’s what the CHE article said. All I can go on is what’s in that article, which is that we have a fairly common internal dispute over a hire which has gotten a bit out of control. I understand that you don’t believe the article presented the story fairly, but my guess is that those you disagree with would argue it wasn’t fairly presented the other way. What is someone like me supposed to think? Your story is very difficult to believe only because of the number of people who have to be in on this conspiracy, and some of them have absolutely no reason to be in on it. If it does, in fact, turn out that you are correct, I’m happy to send you a hand-written apology letter for any additional grief I’ve caused you, a copy of which I’ll post somewhere public.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Only a small number of people need be involved, all with clear incentive.

$1.6 million, including two hires, to a struggling department at risk of losing their graduate program, at a time of more general cuts to the humanities, does not require any additional special malice on anyone’s part to cause problems and wrong-doing. Desperation on the part of some, reasonable self-interest, and reasonable concern for the department on the part of others.

Things can go deeply awry, morally and procedurally speaking, with these ingredients alone.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Moti Gorin
Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Saying that the investigation found “nothing improper” is like saying that the Mueller investigation found “no collusion.” McHugh did not re-investigate the 2015/2016 hire, for one thing. She merely relied on the findings of the Dean’s original investigation. Second, McHugh concluded that there were “misunderstandings, inconsistencies, and procedural errors in the search process.” Are you suggesting that this is nothing improper?Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Molly Gardner
3 months ago

So, Christian (according to his own description above) got found guilty of harassment and bullying of a junior colleague, plus defamation of that colleague and others, in 4 separate incidents, while the independent investigators found no one else did nothing wrong, but we should take your word for that Christian is the hero and the others, including the investigators, are corrupt or wrong.

I can’t believe this thread is even continuing. It sure seems like Molly and Christian are going to face some defamation suits soon. If you have evidence that vindicates you, show it to us.Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Jason, it is simply untrue that “the independent investigators found no one else did [anything] wrong.”Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Molly Gardner
Jason Brennan
Reply to  Molly Gardner
3 months ago

Sorry, let me be more precise! The investigators *did not find* that people did the bad stuff you and Christian are alleging.

Thank you for being particular about my use of language.

Now that that is cleared up, can the two of you quit the “I have damning evidence in my pocket” and show us the evidence? You’re making all these accusations and insinuations, hoping to win people to your side, but then you two repeatedly refuse to give us any independent reason to believe you. It’s long past the time to put up the evidence. So put it up.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Imagine writing a paper on par with this.

“In this paper, I want to defend controversial thesis X. I refuse to show you the argument for X, but I can assure you that not only do I believe X, but some of my grad students also believe X. I promise you I will be vindicated in the end that X.”

I mean, desk reject, right?Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

I’ve got a different proposal for you. Ask Kevin V which things we’ve said on this board are false. Then post them.Kevin please list them yourself. I do not care to defame anyone. So please share so I can correct the record. Please. I don’t want to be sued.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Lulz, you are getting even worse at this.

“In this paper, I assert X. I won’t provide evidence for X, but I implore you to ask Kevin V for his evidence of not-X.”

Desk reject.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Don’t address me further unless it’s an apology. I won’t address you. I gave you adequate reasons above for you to review. I thought my compromise was reasonable. It means minimal private information is aired, people are all protected from lawsuits, and the truth comes out more quickly (having Vallier, etc. list the false statements). Im trying to do my best here. I get beaten down in the basement at BGSU, this crap is all out her just to protect myself. It’s not fun for me to air this either, it’s perilous and scary. Please leave me alone unless it’s to specifically list false things I said that defame.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

You are stating Brandon’s charges. Those did not stand, they had to change them to other categories. And even those weaker verdicts were totally baseless (as per bad conduct directed at Warmke) there are s no defamation or harassment verdicts. That’s only Brandon asked for. Talk about defamation, Jason.They told you this? Or you’re making it up?Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Ok, so I have a document from a dean to a VP from Nov 18, 2019, which says you violated BGSU’s Code of Ethics and Conduct Policy, 3341-1-2, E. 6, as per article 12. It recommended a sanction. You probably know the document. Was this overturned? Do you have a document you can email me showing me that? I also thought that you admitted above that you were found guilty in 4 separate complaints.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Here’s the problem. I contend I did not do the things it contends I did to Brandon. That he fabricated these charges. But I cannot prove a negative . So what we’ll have to do is see the individual emails that fit my crimes, ok? Because BGSU noted none for Brandon–they say I did it, but did not point to any examples. . So are we really going to do this? I would like to if you would. One thing Brandon did was tailor his complaint to meet a harassment charge (e.g. repeated, unsolicited, unwanted, directed attacks/harassment where the objection to the behavior has been conveyed. In fact, if you like you can post the original charge. I would like that, and we’ll run through the evidence for each, and each conclusion they reach. Sound fair? Sounds super fair to me. What do you say?Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

And thank you for considering doing this, this is exactly the kind of public hearing I need.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Now remember we need emails before he submits the complaint, not after. Obviously I get upset with him when he lies about me in a way that could get me fired. I’ve been rude to him since, yes. Understandably. Thank you.Report

Jeff
3 months ago

Though CHE and IHE attempt to address important issues in higher education, I am often left frustrated by the “balance” of their reporting. That is, articles often just report what competing factions assert without weighing in on the veracity of the assertions and without offering the type of context necessary to make sense of what is being reported.

This issue is common in education reporting but harmful nonetheless. For years–for example–journalists simply reported claims made by corporate educational reformers like Bill Gates as if his expertise was analogous to that of someone like Linda Darling-Hammond who devotes her life to the study of education. Because Gates and Darling-Hammond were reported as “just two voices weighing in on the debate,” the door was opened to massive reforms that ultimately harmed public education in this country.

While we cannot expect journalists to be experts in all areas of education, this “balanced” approach to reporting is often harmful. CHE and IHE need to do better, otherwise they risk doing harm. This is especially the case when they give cover for powerful voices and silence more truthful accounts, all under the name of journalistic “balance.”Report

Kaila Draper
3 months ago

Sorry to hear about this happening to such a fine department.Report

Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

By calling libertarianism “right wing” you betray a shallowness I wouldn’t have expected of you. Very disappointing.Report

Joshua
Joshua
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

It does seem a bit misleading to portray the Koch Foundation as right wing libertarianism, though technically correct. I worked for the Charles Koch Institute, perhaps I’m indoctrinated, but what they advocate for couldn’t be further from what the average person would consider right wing.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Joshua
3 months ago

The average person thinks to be right wing is to be part of a bird.

With some exceptions, eg criminal justice, Koch is very much right wing, according to any reasonable political definition of “right wing.”Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

Which part is right-wing, the open borders, the police reform, the drug decriminalization, the occupational licensure reform?Report

Richard Y Chappell
3 months ago

I was an assistant prof at bgsu in 2013-14. From my (thankfully brief) experience there, I can say that lying, corruption, and bias from the department leadership pre-dated the Koch/political stuff (though I certainly believe the reports of Christian and Molly that the climate subsequently worsened).

(I can’t go into specifics, to protect another’s privacy.)

I’m especially sorry to hear that the problems are now spilling over and affecting the (once wonderful) graduate community.Report

Toxic rift-TT
3 months ago

Lying, corruption, abuse, manipulation? Stacking committees and hiring people who are unqualified, for political reasons? Resultant paranoia and lack of trust? Sounds like my department! And alas, we have no Koch money as a consolation or excuse.

Maybe my experience is particularly bad, but I would guess that these sorts of things are very common when people disagree about the direction of a department, and have little to do with grant money, except that the name “Koch” might increase the paranoia. But such things are rarely published in CHE.Report

JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  Toxic rift-TT
3 months ago

I guess the question is whether “lying, corruption, abuse, manipulation, and stacking committees and hiring people who are unqualified for political reasons” is the kind of thing that the profession at large should take an interest in, presumably to try to diminish. Offhand it seems like there’s a parallel with sexual harassment: on the one hand, someone might think that public discussion of specific events is unseemly. On the other hand, if this type of thing is endemic–as you seem to be suggesting!–then a public discussion seems appropriate. To me at least, I’d be interest to hear if/why others think otherwise.Report

Toxic rift-TT
Toxic rift-TT
Reply to  JDRox
3 months ago

I think these things are endemic, but for a whole host of good reasons, people don’t discuss them openly (also, in case it’s not clear, I’m being a bit facetious in the above post).

Our department has a toxicity problem. One thing that might be implied by some of the comments below is that this is common among departments with very heavily top-down or secretive search procedures. That actually makes me feel a little bit better, like we are all the victims of these procedures and maybe can find a way forward. So I’ve found the discussion helpful.

But the manner in which the case at hand is being discussed is entirely inappropriate and damaging to the department in question, its students and faculty. So while discussion of these topics might be helpful in general, this particular discussion strikes me as very bad and destructive.

With that, I promise myself and others not to participate any more.Report

JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  Toxic rift-TT
3 months ago

I agree that…all of this seems unusual, and sort of unseemly. Maybe I can add: I think I would totally be on your side except that the CHE published an article on the affair! Given that, public discussion of the events described therein seems appropriate. Justin seems to be doing a pretty good job policing the comments, although many fall in a sort of grey area.Report

Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Like others have suggested – and not weighing in on the merits of the dispute – this Chronicle article is clickbait trash.

Basically, everyone in the BG philosophy dept was excited that the department (via Kevin Vallier) would get a bunch of money to hire new faculty members and do new things connected with the PPEL program. Then, two of them (Coons and Gardner) were unhappy with the search process and how the money got spent, presumably because they weren’t getting as much of those resources as they wanted for their things, their hires weren’t selected or in their eyes they didn’t have enough input in the search, etc. The Chronicle starts yelling “Koch Bros!” to get people to read the article.

This is the usual and typical departmental squabbling. How is this news?

And, Justin, you aren’t helping here by feeding the “Koch Bros” and anti-libertarian fire. I know you have ideological disagreements, but unless I’m missing something none of that seems relevant here.Report

Joe Mara
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

“two of them (Coons and Gardner) were unhappy with the search process and how the money got spent, presumably because they weren’t getting as much of those resources as they wanted for their things, their hires weren’t selected or in their eyes they didn’t have enough input in the search, etc” – this is a possible interpretation but I do not believe that we are in a position to simply assert this as if it were obviously true that it is so. Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Joe Mara
3 months ago

As I said, I’m not weighing in on the merits of the BGSU situation itself. That’s how the story comes out in the CHE article, which may or may not be true. My issue is with the click bait and otherwise terrible article that the CHE just ran and us giving attention to it. (Especially since this kind of click bait makes life tougher for people like me who have accepted similar funding.)

Molly, I didn’t mean to make it seem like I was attacking you or have it come across like I was taking sides on the merits of the BGSU dispute. That was not the intent of my post.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Chris, I know nothing about the situation at BGSU, beyond what I’ve read here. But I don’t see how you can have thought that what you said wasn’t an attack on Molly (and Christian), and thus how you could not have meant to make it seem like an attack. Here’s what you said: “Then, two of them (Coons and Gardner) were unhappy with the search process and how the money got spent, presumably because they weren’t getting as much of those resources as they wanted for their things, their hires weren’t selected or in their eyes they didn’t have enough input in the search, etc”
No competent reader of English could fail to interpret this as an attack on Molly and Christian.Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
3 months ago

Joe an Alastair: Then the CHE article was an attack on them, I guess. If there is much or any truth to Christian’s story (and, to a lesser extent, Molly’s), I would be pissed at the CHE if I were them. The CHE article makes Christian look like a crazy person and makes Molly look like someone who just ended up on the wrong side of a disagreement and had the good sense just to leave.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Chris, if all you had meant to say was that the article made it look like that’s what happened, you could and should have said that. I read the article, and that was not the impression I got from it. As Joe pointed out, the article left different interpretations open. Your second paragraph clearly reads like you are telling us what actually happened (‘Basically…’), and then criticizing the Chronicle for “Yelling ‘Koch Bros'”. I’m glad to see that the problem was merely your sloppy writing, and not a personal attack on Molly and Christian.Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
3 months ago

The article was providing their side of the dispute in the best possible light. But, look, I know you’re not a neutral observer on this one. Take it easy.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Chris, you “know” I’m not a neutral observer on this one? Really? And just how do you know this, given that, as I said, all I know about it is from reading this thread and the linked article? As far as I know, you know practically nothing about me, except for what I may have written that you’ve read (and I have no idea what, if anything, that is). I’ve certainly never written anything that can be fairly read as implying that I’m not a neutral observer on this one. All I know about you (as far as I remember, we’ve never met in person) is from what you’ve written on posts here or on FB that I’ve read. All I did on this post was point out the fact that your personal attacks on Molly and Christian in your post were too obvious not to have been intended. Instead of doing the decent thing, owning up to the fact that you did indeed attack them personally in your post, and apologizing for doing so, you’re doubling down on your ludicrous claim that you didn’t intend to seem like you were attacking them, and now you’re lobbing ad hominem attacks at me. I didn’t previously have any opinion about your personal character. Now I do.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Alastair Norcross
Paul
Paul
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Is this excerpt from your personal web page relevant to the discussion of neutral observers? –“During 2019-2022, I’ll be leading a project to examine and support entrepreneurship in minority communities. This three-year project is supported by grants from the John Templeton Foundation and Charles Koch Foundation.”Report

Spencer Jay Case
Spencer Jay Case
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
3 months ago

I think that sentence wouldn’t necessarily be an attack if you thought these were legitimate reasons to be seriously disgruntled. I agree that to say that this is all that the complaints amount to is to go beyond the article, so maybe it’s criticizable to assert that here. On the other hand, the article clearly had an anti-Koch money angle, and given that angle, you’d think any real smoking guns pointing to serious corruption would be brought to our attention. And it also seems pretty uncharitable to other members of the department to suggest there’s a reasonable probability of some real nefarious stuff going on. It seems like those who are making the serious accusations have the burden of proof, and that it hasn’t been met. My impression after reading the article was that this looks like ordinary departmental squabbling amped up by the fact that people have strong feelings about Koch money. And I’m not sure the Koch money is to blame for that.Report

Joe Mara
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

But the quote is an attack, whether you intented it or not.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Chris S and Jason B,

Let me ask you a simple question. And I hope you will answer honestly rather than strategically.

Suppose you’re a member of a job search. The job is to teach in the history of philosophy, graduate and undergraduate courses, the job ad lists this as “the primary qualification.”

Now imagine an applicant, W, who has never taught the subject, not even as a TA. Also imagine the candidate is not an AOS or AOC in the area. Nor does he explain his qualification for the position –despite the lack of appearance in his letter.

Also imagine that internal standards about “how much history” a candidate requires are promulgated by the chair to the rest of the committee. These standards shift, but W never meets any of them. W is the only candidate treated this way “for reasons that are not in his dossier and can only be discussed in person.” Why does W even make the first cut, in violation of our internal rules? Because Kevin Vallier put him in it, by himself, and when I object he says “I’m not going to let you stop me.”

Do you think it would be ok for me to say of candidate W, “but he’s not qualified?”

I think it would be. Wouldn’t you? Jason and Chris? I’m asking.

When I reported on this corruption to peers at BGSU –saying we ended up hiring someone who was not qualified (note I didn’t even use Warmke’s name)–Mr. Warmke demanded I be punished by the university, and friends of his approached me saying I looked like a fool and could he could easily sue me if he wanted to.

Guess what? BGSU’s investigator actually agreed with Warmke saying while it may or may not be true he was unqualified –this shows punishable disrespect for Warmke.

Warmke held a joint funded grant for Free Speech from BGSU and the Institute of Humane Studies around this time. By the way.

So Jason, Chris. What do you say. Reasonable stuff? Starting to see why why I’m upset? And why after 4 years of this I’ve not published so much?

[Editorial note: this comment has been slightly edited.]Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

You may want to post this under Jason’s question. I’m happy to respond, but it will be in an hour or two. I’m on my phone now and it’s hard to punch out anything too long.Report

Joe Mara
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

To be frank, I have been in a few searches where the candidate ultimately hired only marginally fit the job description – usually, the thought was that it was a really good hiring opportunity that we should make and, as long as, one way or another, the person can kind of fit into it. In any case, I do not want to judge this particular case or the way the search was conducted (where you indicate more problems that what I just described), just that hiring someone not quite fitting the job description is not totally unheard of.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Joe Mara
3 months ago

You’re missing the point. I’m being punished for saying the candidate did not. Warmke reported me for that. It’s not a judgement call, there were rules promulgated about “how much history” he did not meet any of them. I’m very lax about these thing myself, but there was a double standard only for him and for no publicly sharable reason. I’m being punished simply for saying we hired a person not qualified for the position. I don’t even mention his name. That’s unreasonable, correct? Geez. Where are the libertarian “free speech” advocates when you need them?Report

Joe Mara
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

I understand what you were and are saying and I didn’t contradict that. I merely pointed out that hires that do not fit well the job ad description happen – whether or not they happen to happen in an acceptable way, is a different matter as is any potential fallout.Report

Jason Brennan
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Hi Christian,

Here is the job advertising that was posted and which Brandon won. There does not seem to be any reason to doubt Brandon was a good candidate for this as described.

https://philjobs.org/job/show/4044?fbclid=IwAR1UTY9sn3Sv84V3rVsrfA_IzNCm59iAbq-Cmp5Ymcad3WxXeWaNh4rlyRMReport

Justin Capes
Justin Capes
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

And, as Molly points out below, the ad was not changed during the process. It was always for History OR moral/political. Brandon certainly fits that bill and has proved (at least if his publication record is any indication) to be an excellent hire. The more I hear about this situation, the more it sounds like sour grapes.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Justin Capes
3 months ago

Justin. Who are you? You don’t know anything about this. So go away:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PCsuXh4-tyrYJvt1iAQAxcPFENFKv3yE/view?usp=sharingReport

Justin
Justin
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Christian, I was commenting on the job ad that was actually posted to applicants. According to that ad, the hire you actually made looks qualified (is able to teach the relevant classes) and can contribute to the departments PPEL program. All of this publicly available information suggests that the claim made earlier in this thread that the candidate hired was “not at all qualified” is false. Whether there were other nefarious dealings revealed in information to which I’m not privy isn’t something I commented on.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Jason Brennan
3 months ago

Here’s the ad as presented to Admin. As you can see, this is more dirtbag stuff. It’s not hard to plausibly reconstruct the “scandal” I was referring to when you see it.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PCsuXh4-tyrYJvt1iAQAxcPFENFKv3yE/view?usp=sharingReport

Joel
Joel
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Is your claim that the text linked here was what was approved by the department and someone (without the proper approval of the department) simply added the disjunctive AOS to the job ad?Report

Justin Capes
Justin Capes
Reply to  Joel
3 months ago

I, too, am unclear what the claim here is supposed to be. In any event, even the ad “as presented to Admin.” doesn’t substantiate the claim that the candidate actually hired was “not at all qualified.”Report

Alex Hughes
Alex Hughes
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

What was the AOS/AOC for the position being filled? None of the reportage makes that particularly clear.Report

Alex Hughes
Alex Hughes
Reply to  SCM
3 months ago

That sure looks like a history job! If only there were a supply of available historians of philosophy…Report

Joe Mara
Reply to  Alex Hughes
3 months ago

It’s a disjunctive search for history and ethics.Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Alex Hughes
3 months ago

The AOS is “History or Moral and Political Philosophy”–a disjunction. The description goes the other way: “The primary qualification for the position is the ability to teach a variety of courses in the history of philosophy at both the undergraduate and at the graduate level. Candidates who are also able to contribute to the department’s specialization in ethics and political philosophy (including the program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law (PPEL)) will be favored.” In short, the ad is bad. The case being discussed remains unclear, so far as I can tell.Report

Justin Capes
Justin Capes
Reply to  Andrew
3 months ago

The case being discussed? Do you mean the hire that they actually made?Report

Andrew
Andrew
Reply to  Justin Capes
3 months ago

I mean the whole thing in the Chronicle article.Report

Toxic rift-TT
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Maybe your department was all sunshine and roses before this kind of event, but please consider that this kind of thing happens ALL THE TIME, everywhere. It’s the result of people trying to achieve what they think is best for the department/college whatever, when this is at odds with what other people think is best. It’s not a good thing, and I think behind-the-scenes maneuvering like you describe (assuming your description is the complete and accurate description; it’s really none of my business and I prefer to withhold judgment) causes rifts and bad blood and alienation. However, it’s not at all uncommon. Complaints to the administration and public denunciations of one’s new colleague as unqualified exacerbate the situation and are unprofessional. Reporting in the CHE about these kinds of internal disputes is inappropriate, and CHE should have known better.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Toxic rift-TT
3 months ago

Please see my other posts.Report

Toxic rift-TT
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

It’s hard to see how what you allege in the other posts (re: sexual discrimination) is related to what you say here about the hire. But perhaps it’s best to just set this aside and suspend judgment– I genuinely sympathize with you (and the rest of the department); I know acutely what it feels like to have illegitimate and (to my mind) unjust proceedings forced on a department, to feel voiceless as things (to my mind) go further and further downhill. I also think it is hilarious, if true, that when the liberals get in charge, they run the department as a totalitarian regime.

However, if you are ever in need of a (a) lady (b) historian with broad competencies, who (c) is sympathetic both with marxism and liberalism, but really doesn’t care one way or the other, and is (d) really well-versed at handling departmental conflict, send up the bat signal! I would love to work at Bowling Green.Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Christian, I should have read your post fully before my last reply. I just saw a wall of text and thought there was something more than a dispute connected to an old job search.

I can’t speak to what happened during that search, obviously. But it’s not unusual for search committee priorities to change once they see the applicants that come in, when they become aware of shifting institutional priorities and try to align what they’re doing with those priorities to ensure continued success of the program, disconnect between the full department that may have horse-traded on various aspects of the job ad but then the individual members of a search committee have their own interests, etc.

All of this relate to what seems to be a 5-6 year old job search? I thought it was more substantive that that. If that’s all this is about, then this is starting to look even crazier.Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

I’m having some deja vu here. In my five years at BGSU, it often seemed to happen that I would raise concerns that some norms or principles had been violated, and instead of addressing those concerns directly, the conversation would be changed to whether I had a defective character or selfish motives. But really, this story is not about me. It is not about whether I am selfish, unreasonable, incompetent, irrational, or whatever else. It is about whether the norms or principles were violated.Report

Matthew Smith
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Man this is really uncharitable to Molly and Christian. Why would you want to go out and say this?

You could have just said, “This looks like the typical department squabbling” without picking out two of them as responsible for the squabbling.

It’s especially suspect to say. “This article is garbage BUT ACCORDING TO THE ARTICLE I can confidently publicly criticize these two individuals for starting the squabbling.”Report

David Faraci
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

So far as I can see, this interpretation of Coons and Gardner only makes sense given a misunderstanding–though an understandable one, given the CHE’s framing of this as being all about Koch.

What happened is not that some Koch money came in, Warmke was hired, and Coons and Garder were upset about his hire and about how the money was used.

Rather, what happened was that Warmke was hired in a search that Coons and Gardner judged to be procedurally unjust on independent grounds. Indeed, if memory serves, Coons at least began raising procedural concerns about Warmke’s hire long before he even knew that Warmke was connected to any prospective Koch money. It was only later, when he learned this, that he saw it as a potential explanation for his colleague’s behavior. That’s what this passage is referring to:

All the pieces had come together for Coons. The “critical information” that Vallier had said wasn’t in Warmke’s application? It was his ability to help the department get the Koch grant, Coons speculated. 

Report

Liz McPherson
3 months ago

I won’t comment on the content of the CHE article, such as it is. It is frustratingly vague and reports just enough to create intrigue and/or make interested parties angry.
However, as a recently departed grad student and advisee of Dr. Coons, I can be a character witness in his favor. For what it’s worth:
Christian was always very invested in the BGSU philosophy department and its success. He worked very hard to keep the proverbial ship (which was sinking, when I arrived) afloat during the years I worked with him. I highly doubt he would go public with information potentially detrimental to the department for petty reasons, or to pursue personal vendettas.Report

Trout
Trout
Reply to  Liz McPherson
3 months ago

I am a non-tenured member of the department at BGSU who can’t speak up publicly at this time. I agree with Liz. There is a great deal more to this story than the Chronicle report touches on.

So, as outside members of the profession, what’s being asked of you is not to take sides or form a judgment based on this one article. That would be unreasonable. What is being asked of you is to please speak up and put pressure on the university to be more transparent about these investigations.

Was Christian Coons able to submit all his evidence that the hire of 2016 was illegal? No.

Does Christian Coons have evidence that wasn’t included in the investigations? Yes.

Has the evidence been refuted with counter-evidence? We don’t know! It’s not part of the McHugh investigation and there is no response from BGSU.Report

Christian Coons
3 months ago

Just give you a taste of the crazy at Bowling Green State University.

I was not allowed to view job candidate files during our last search. I complained about it. The “neutral” investigator claimed this was ok in part because I was writing an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education. I was not – the investigator just made that up. And why would that mean I can’t look at the candidates we are considering? It’s just one thing after another like that.

The Dean also gave us new rules for our department during or post-Koch grant searches: there can be no record of our hiring deliberations on email. He told us this was a well known “best practice” yet it’s applied only to our department.

3 of last 4 faculty to leave, left citing sexual discrimination. And we’ve had explicit sexual discrimination in the last two searches where a woman was a finalist. Complaints were addressed by asking violators and complainants if it actually happened. The violators simply lie –saying it didn’t. The complainants say they can provide evidence. So, naturally, evidence is barred from the investigation. It will just be interviews.

Since that time two further searches have been conducted, we’ve never had a woman in the final pools. Where’s the APA? I’m tired but it may be time to reach out to them.

I could go on for days.Report

SCM
SCM
3 months ago

(i) What I assume is the original job ad is here: https://philjobs.org/job/show/4044

The AOS is “History or Moral and Political Philosophy.” The description reads: “The primary qualification for the position is the ability to teach a variety of courses in the history of philosophy at both the undergraduate and at the graduate level. Candidates who are also able to contribute to the department’s specialization in ethics and political philosophy (including the program in Philosophy, Politics, Economics and Law (PPEL)) will be favored.”

This is a little odd and perhaps confusing to job applicants. If my own department ran an ad with that job description, I would think that we were looking for a candidate with an AOS in history (and particularly one with interests in moral and political philosophy), since we would expect grad level courses in an area to be taught by a person with an AOS in that area. (BGSU, of course, is free to decide that a person without an AOS in history is the best person to teach graduate level history classes, considering his/her other qualifications and the other needs of the department.) The listed AOS, however, is disjunctive, and that leaves it open whether the person needs an AOS in history. I suspect that the ambiguity here reflects unresolved disagreement in the department about what the relevant needs were. These sorts of disagreements really should be resolved one way or another, as far as the wording of the ad goes, so that everyone (both applicants and the hiring department) is on the same page about what the minimum requirements are. Otherwise, you know, stuff like this starts to snowball.

(ii) I really don’t like public discussions that are either explicitly or implicitly about whether So-and-so should have been hired at Such-and-such University for all the obvious reasons. I don’t know Brandon, and I’m not familiar with his work, but he clearly has an excellent publication record in moral and political philosophy and deserves congratulations for his recent tenure and promotion.

(iii) As far as I can make out, there are two objections to how the hiring process went that are, in principle, of general concern, leaving aside outsiders’ lack of complete information: (a) whether the wrong kind of reason was used to prefer one candidate over another, and (b) whether the wrong kind of pressure was applied to a junior colleague to secure one outcome rather than another.

Re: (a), while the interest in pursuing and the ability to secure outside grant money is in general a legitimate consideration in favour of a candidate, it is not legitimate for a public university to use that consideration if it relies on the candidate’s religious, moral, or political views. I make no claim about whether libertarian/classical liberal philosophers are indeed more likely than others to secure funding from the Koch foundation, but it would be quite disreputable for a department to favour a candidate because they believed his/her political/ideological views did in fact make that more likely. That’s just an indirect way for them to buy the kind of faculty they’d presumably like to see. This point is totally compatible with it being a good idea for departments to pursue Koch, etc., money for projects like the BGSU PPEL program.

Re: (b), disagreeing with senior colleagues can often be an uncomfortable experience, especially if quite a few of them seem or are annoyed with one’s continued dissent. But that type of pressure is a normal part of dealing with imperfect humans. Matters are very different if the pressure takes the form of explicit or implicit threats to the junior colleague’s standing and prospects in the department.

None of us on the outside knows what happened at BGSU re: (a) and (b) without evidence. I don’t think it’s terribly helpful for us to speculate or take sides in the dispute without that evidence as that just decreases the prospects of a decent resolution of the conflict. That includes outsiders who may have snippets of inside information, from one party or the other, and who feel those snippets give them warrant to make personal attacks or impugn the character or someone on the other side. So some of the comments above are, I think, unwisely inflammatory.

(iv) Christian suggests that there are a number of other issues at BGSU beyond the 2015/16 hiring process. If so, outsiders would do well to help keep all those issues distinct. It may be tempting for us to pile on in one side or another of a department’s local meltdown, but it is our responsibility to the department and the discipline to engage with the issues that have been made public and are of general concern in a constructive manner, without gleefully adding fuel to the fire.

(v) FWIW, I know Christian, Kevin, and Molly and would like to think I have friendly personal and professional relations with all of them. I’ve also published a paper in a volume edited by Kevin and Michael Weber, following a conference held at BGSU some years ago.

Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  SCM
3 months ago

I forgot to add:

(vi) The CHE article mentions two programs started at Florida State University with Koch money. To clarify, those programs have nothing whatsoever to do with the FSU Department of Philosophy, although the article may give the impression that they do.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by SCM
Christian Coons
Reply to  SCM
3 months ago

There were two ads which is part of the scandal too (at least this is something the Dean privately reported). I was not fully party to this part. I probably have enough evidence to reconstruct it, including copies of both ads somewhere, but I’m not fully versed in it. I think it was something like this ad is different from the one presented to the university or it got amended or something. Not sure.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Do you mean the department agreed to one job ad, but then a differently worded ad appeared in PhilJobs? If so, and if there were any changes in the AOS and job description that the dean required, that is obviously the sort of thing that should have been run by the department first.Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Christian, the language of the job ad was changed in the 2018/2019 search, not the 2015/2016 search.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Molly Gardner
3 months ago

It’s happened twice, then. I’m confident. It just came up the latest another disciplinary case Warmke filed. Both ads are in the disciplinary files, but I’m tired I can’t be bothered to dig them both out or try to reconstruct from old emails what the scandal about it was.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Molly Gardner
3 months ago

It happened during the History search too, see link. All history. This is what we presented to the university.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PCsuXh4-tyrYJvt1iAQAxcPFENFKv3yE/view?usp=sharingReport

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Oops!! I stand corrected. I didn’t realize that the part about contributing to the PPEL program was added later.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Thanks for that Christian. That is very clearly and unambiguously an ad for a history candidate. If the ad was changed to history or moral and political without any further department input, that would be highly irregular, notwithstanding the authority of deans to have the final say on hires. If it was bounced back to the department by the dean with the addition of moral and political philosophy disjunction, and the majority of the department were OK with the addition, then it is not irregular. From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem that the majority were on board with the disjunction if they eventually voted to hire a candidate without an AOS in history.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  SCM
3 months ago

The chair mentions that the search was “dominated” by one individual. Perhaps that’s relevant here.Report

Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

Two hypocrisies involved here. 1: It’s disingenuous to complain about “politically motivated” hiring for the .001 % of philosophers who identify as classical liberal, while not saying a word about the “politically motivated” hiring that goes on when the AOS specifies a focus on race or gender or the environment. Random perusal of PhilJobs turns up a representative example, a position with a disjunctive AOS as follows: “LatinX Philosophy, Non-Western Philosophy, Feminist Philosophy, Critical Race Theory, Social justice issues” You can pretend that that’s a pristinely apolitical search if you want to, but it’s pretty obvious that “politically motivated” just means “motivated by political views I think are wrong.”
2: Complaining that CKF or Templeton has “an agenda” while not worrying in the slightest about money from Ford, MacArthur, Kroc, Gates, Rockefeller, Lilly, Johnson, Hewlett, the defense department, etc…Report

Moti Gorin
3 months ago

From CHE story: “[Chair Webber] agreed that a string of libertarian speakers had been invited to campus, but didn’t see anything nefarious in that.
“It’s difficult to get people to come,” he said. “They want to go to more glamorous places.”

Professors tend to invite speakers that they know, he said. Some faculty are very active in inviting speakers. “Might they be more libertarian than you might expect?” Weber said. “Yeah, possibly.””

Is it easier to get libertarian speakers to come to non-glamorous campuses for some reason? Are non-libertarian philosophers more attracted to glamorous locations than libertarian philosophers?

Evidently, this is how Koch power works these days in academia, at least sometimes, now that they got rid of the explicit quid pro quos in their earlier contracts. Nothing explicit or forced–just have the views they like, views they pay a lot of money to mainstream, platformed more than one might, possibly, expect.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

You’re overthinking it – other than superstars, it’s pretty easy to get _any_ philosopher to go to non-glamorous locations to give a talk. But also, and more to your point, the speaker series that are funded by Templeton and CKF do _not_ require that only libertarians are invited to speak. Other perspectives are represented in these programs.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

I know all this. Just pointing out that explanations offered by the chair for why BGSU had a stream of libertarian speakers offered struck me as a bit odd. Clearly those who actively invite speakers to BGSU have libertarian sympathies, and it looks like they invite similarly-minded people. That’s the explanation, which has nothing to do with philosophers’ preferences for glamorous places.

I’ve never received any Koch money, but I did attend two Liberty Fund events. It’s true–not everyone who attended these two events was a libertarian, but most were, and those who attend over and over again are, and it’s extremely clear what the purpose of these events is when one is taking part in them.

Koch seeks to mainstream libertarian ideas. Ok, fine. But let’s acknowledge that. I’m happy to acknowledge that other funders promote non-libertarian ideas. But the question in the current case, or one of the questions at least, is whether or not the Koch money played an illicit role in hiring.Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

Moti, it’s actually pretty clear that that’s not one of the questions. No one, not even Christian, is claiming that Koch had any influence on the hiring.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Hi Chris. It is one of the questions, as I understand the situation, based on information not included in the CHE piece. Christian can, if he wishes, confirm or disconfirm. Perhaps I’m mistaken.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

In fact, Chris, the article makes quite clear that Christian’s concerns about the 2016 hire were directly connected to concerns about Koch money.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

They’re mainstreaming them by promoting open discussion. That’s entirely consistent with the function of a university. I’ve never participated in anything funded by CKF, IHS, Templeton, or LF that seemed even remotely to be about indoctrination. That’s why I get irritated with the hypocrisies I described above, it’s as if it’s bad that we’re even discussing an idea.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

It’s likely that what one perceives as indoctrination will be determined at least in part by one’s existing commitments. I also didn’t use the term “indoctrination.”Report

Sam Duncan
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

These replies themselves seem a bit disingenuous to me. I doubt that there’s anything official from Fox News that says that all Fox News TV personalities have to be conservative. But the absence of any such official dictate does not in fact make Fox “fair and balanced.” Nor does the fact they have had a few token liberals like Williams and Colmes prove that either. Admittedly, Koch funded events aren’t quite that openly biased but it’s not true that they don’t have a decided slant and an overall agenda. To take a less loaded and perhaps more apt comparison, no one thinks that the fact that it doesn’t have an official partisan line and lets Hugh Hewitt and Gary Abernathy write opinion columns shows that the Washington Post is politically neutral. Further, there are a lot of us who do have problems with other billionaires with too much time and ego besides the Kochs meddling in higher ed. (I for one suspect Bill Gates may be doing as much or more damage with his harebrained “reform” ideas). So it simply won’t do to accuse anyone who objects to Koch funding as a hypocrite. I do take your point about consistency here and I for one hope that Justin and others with a platform in the profession will do more to bring to light the perverse incentives and outright corruption that chasing money from billionaires of any ideological stripe brings with it.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Sam Duncan
3 months ago

What perverse incentives? I don’t personally profit, the money is to run programs for my students. You call it “meddling,” but it’s helping me be better at my job. If I were at a super-wealthy institution I’d be able to do all this stuff without external grants, but I’m at a medium-sized state school. Are my students less deserving of visiting speakers and reading groups than Yalies are? Am I “corrupt” for seeking an opportunity to give them more ribust experiences? It’s only a “perverse incentive” if it encourages me to do something contrary to mission, something bad. That’s not what’s going on. You’re impugning people’s integrity with zero justification. Please be better.Report

Sam Duncan
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

I never called you corrupt and I never impugned your integrity. I will say that to claim that I did is either sloppy or dishonest. I said there were perverse incentives and that it lead to corruption. I don’t know if this is some sort of dishonest rhetorical game you’re playing taking offense like this and changing the subject from the substance of what I’ve said or if you’re really insulted by this. I would say that I’m extremely dubious of the value of big name speakers for undergrads. I’ve mostly found them worthless at all stages of my education and find lesser known people do a better job, though honestly talks in general aren’t super useful for most undergrads. For most schools there are a lot better things that billionaire sorts could be funding if they really wanted to help than sending academic superstars libertarian or otherwise around. Reading groups are more useful but I was unaware that they were so costly as to need major outside funding. We could really use more onsite daycare at my school and bus passes would be great too. And if I’m really dreaming a fund for short term loans for students would be phenomenal. But no billionaire seems to have much interest in funding things like that. Anyway, I’m sure you’ll take some sort of (real or pretend) offense and muddy the waters as you’ve been doing with Gorin’s replies and now mine in reply.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Sam Duncan
3 months ago

You and Gorin talk about corruption, perverse incentives, conflicts of interest, and so on, and then when I find that insulting, your response is “hey, I wasn’t calling _you_ corrupt! Don’t be so oversensitive.” I’m not the one playing rhetorical games.Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

You’re reacting to claims about the mere existence of conflicts of interest as though they are straightforwardly claims about malfeasance or misconduct, which seems like you just aren’t familiar with the basic concept, I guess.

I’m not an expert on them, but the existence of a conflict of interests simply means there is a situation in which one has competing incentives, more or less, not that one has in fact betrayed one’s fiduciary or pastoral obligations. There are no rhetorical games being played with respect to the objective claim that receipt of financial benefit can (and often does) create conflicts of interest.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Lewis Powell
3 months ago

Well put, Lewis. It’s just false that to point out that someone has a COI is to impugn their character or accuse them of malfeasance. Look at all the COI declarations at the bottom of articles in medical journals. Are these researchers accusing themselves of corrupt motives or malfeasance?

This conversation, like the earlier one, is due to a simple misunderstanding of what a COI is, and an evident disinterest in correcting that misunderstanding.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

Moti, I think we must have different conceptions of what insults are- at various places in this thread you’ve said that it’s not insulting to call someone unqualified for the position they hold, and that people have conflicts of interest when they get external funding to do their job better.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

Would you be insulted if I said you were unqualified to lead a team project at a particle accelerator?

As for COI, I have nothing more to say on it.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

Of course not. But if you told me I was unqualified for the position I in fact have, as you’re doing with Warmke, then yeah, I’d find that insulting.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

I didn’t make any claim about Warmke. In fact I explicitly said I was not doing so.

The point is that it is not necessarily insulting to be told you are not qualified for the job you hold. You concede you would not be insulted if I told you that you are unqualified for a particle accelerator position. Presumably this wouldn’t change if you were, for some strange reason, hired for the job.Report

JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

Perhaps a bit of nuance is required here. Nobody thinks Warmke is unqualified to be a philosophy professor in general, or to be one at BGSU in particular. He clearly is, and Coons has said he is. That’s just not the issue. The issue is (purportedly) that Warmke didn’t meet the qualifications for the job ad as originally written. That might not even be a big deal in many contexts: perhaps the department doesn’t really care about the job ad as written! But the allegation here is that the department did care about the job ad as written, and that the discrepancy between the job ad and Warmke’s CV is evidence of a certain sort of procedural injustice or at least irregularity in the hiring process, subsequent complaints about which have resulted in retaliation.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Lewis Powell
3 months ago

But I don’t get a financial benefit. It’s not like the money goes into my checking account. It’s a budget I can use to pay _other people_. The very implication that I profit off this is misleading and offensive.Report

Evan
Reply to  Sam Duncan
3 months ago

I agree about the speaker part. There isn’t a robust evidence that I know of that having speakers will improve the education of students significantly unless the professors at the school are so bad at teaching (e.g., lecturing) that they have to hire a speaker in the first place. Logically, it makes sense. Though empirically, I’m not sure how much of a difference it makes in terms of in the educational outcome of students.

Having another speaker is just having another lecturer (for the most part) for an hour or two. They often aren’t instructing, demonstrating, discussing, or querying with students. Nor do they provide resources for them. And to require them to do so would probably cost more money. The speaker better be worth the money if colleges or universities are spending thousands of dollars on them.

I do wish colleges and universities had more philosophy tutors for students to see at a writing center.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Evan
3 months ago

Then why do all the elite institutions bring in visiting speakers? It’s almost self-evidently false that that there’s no benefit from visiting speakers; they bring a different perspective from one’s regular profs, and expose students to new and interesting work that that person is doing. Again, the implication seems to be that it’s totally fine for elite institutions to do stuff but if state schools do it, it must be because we’ve been corrupted by dark money.Report

Evan
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

Well for one thing, the same reason why so many teachers still use teaching methods that go against empirical research findings. Second, they have extra cash. They can splurge on speakers. Third, it’s traditional; universities have a history of inviting speakers. Fourth, it adds prestige and connections.

But I highly doubt that it adds any *more* educational value. Exposing students to diverse views can occur by teaching them about these views or hire professors who can.

I’m not against having speakers per se. Just that they better be worth the money. Especially if the school does not have much to spend on compared to the elite schools. Not all speakers are educationally good for students.

Also many speakers are on Youtube. Some of my professors have shown us Ted Talks in class by certain people without costing them a dime.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Evan
Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Evan
3 months ago

Ok, you don’t know what you’re talking about. If you think there’s no difference between a youtube video and a live, in-person talk with Q&A, then you’re mistaken. The idea that we could just hire more professors to teach the other material is absurd. We couldn’t possibly hire new profs on that basis, and why should we when we can have them come give a talk? And when you say we have “extra cash,” you again indicate that you don’t know how this works. It’s not _my_ money. I can spend it on the expenses involved in bringing in visiting speakers, or on buying books for reading groups. That’s it. I don’t get the money for me at all. The implication that I do is insulting and ignorant.Report

Evan
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

If you read carefully, I said I wasn’t against speakers per se. Just that they be worth the money. Also, not all speakers have Q and A sections. To assume they all come with one is empirically incorrect.

By “extra cash” I was referring the elite schools since you asked a question about them. Of course, they have more money independent of grants compared to poorer schools. It’s common sense. I merely answered your question about elite schools. And so I’m not sure why you’d feel insulted unless you failed to understand the discussion we’re having.Report

Evan
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

To give another example, when I was in high school, my art teacher showed us a documentary on art and poverty and what many poor Brazilians do to survive: by making art using trash from landfills. She even let me borrowed a CD about art and science and how they intersect, showing me potential ways to bridge the two worlds by leading scientists and artists and the emerging innovations in the science and art world. Exposing students to new ideas does not necessarily have to require bringing in speakers.

She referred me to it. And I learned a lot and have a greater appreciation for both art and science.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Evan
Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

I’m usually not a fan of shutting down comments, but, Justin, you should shut this one down — it’s quickly becoming a dumpster fire.

There are personal attacks being made against a junior faculty member who had nothing to do with the process that brought him in, how the decision was made, etc. There are also discussions on here about personnel files, much of which I guess is public because BGSU is a state university, but, really, that sort of stuff shouldn’t be publicly discussed like it is being discussed now.

None of us have any information on this beyond what we’ve been told by the people who are involved, either directly or indirectly through the CHE article. It’s clear that the external funding played no role in this dysfunction beyond that it put them in a position to hire, so there’s no story there either. There’s no reason to facilitate folks airing their dirty departmental laundry under the banner of “news,” which is what this is becoming.Report

Liz McPherson
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

I am going to agree. I chimed in in defense of Christian (who deserves an audience), but this forum is clearly not conducive to a productive discussion.Report

Joe Mara
Reply to  Liz McPherson
3 months ago

I agree too. As much as I enjoy juicy gossip, I think throwing personal accusations, allegations, and insults is not good for anybody.Report

Thomas Bell
Thomas Bell
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

I am not sure how it could be possible that we could be as in-the-dark as you describe while at the same time being confident that the Koch money had no influence on the hiring decision.Report

DeKochThisStory
DeKochThisStory
Reply to  Thomas Bell
3 months ago

Because what we are in the dark about is the veracity of the allegations, and there is no allegation that Koch money influenced the hiring decision?Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  DeKochThisStory
3 months ago

From Justin’s (accurate) summary of the CHE piece, above:

“Coons suspected that the “critical information” about the candidate that Vallier referred to was the candidate’s connection to the Koch Foundation or his willingness and ability to seek funding from it.”Report

Concerned Prof
Concerned Prof
Reply to  DeKochThisStory
3 months ago

There is an allegation of precisely that sort about the subsequent search in the story:

“Gardner, who served on the hiring committee, said, “It felt to me like some candidates whose values were not in harmony with Charles Koch Foundation values were removed from consideration.”Report

Bob Lockie
Bob Lockie
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

This is the single comment made with which I have the greatest agreement. “There are personal attacks being made against a junior faculty member who had nothing to do with the process that brought him in, how the decision was made, etc.” – quite.  Report

Matthew Smith
3 months ago

My only comment on this is that some contributing factors to this unfortunate situation are:

  1. Defunding of state universities, mostly by Republican legislatures;
  2. The embrace by many hard luck departments of basically any funding source that could support research, which includes the push for individual philosophers to get grant money.
  3. The early 21st C rise of star departments that helped to produce revolving door assistant professorships as people tried to trade up from one job to another until they got to a ‘ranked’ department (this necessitates lots of job searches, which is mostly not great);

There are surely other factors!

What seems important to me, though, is that #1 is partially a product of Koch money, broadly understood. And that leads to #2: as the right wing mafia squeezes the university for money, it turns around and offers dependence through private grants. There is something, in my opinion, morally suspect about participating in this system, although sometimes we must do morally suspect things in order to survive.

#3 is something we, as a discipline, can control a bit. Perhaps one of the best ways is simply to stop inviting faculty from star departments to speak. That’s right. I think that there should be a discipline wide moratorium on invited talks by tenured faculty from star departments.

Would this resolve the problem at BGSU? I do not know. But I think that if we valorized more colleagues who were just great at teaching their sub discipline and great colleagues (eg people we learn from, great for the department community, etc) then there would be less pressure to hire ‘star’ people as well as less money in the mix.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Matthew Smith
3 months ago

“stop inviting faculty from star departments to speak” Sorry, no. My only responsibility is to provide the best experience I can manage for my students. I often can’t afford superstar speakers, but when I can, it’s good for my students to have access to them, and I’d be shortchanging them, and indeed exacerbating existing inequities, if I declined to do so.Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

Aeon is right. The aim is to give students at places like BGSU, BSW, UNO the best possible academic experience in hopes of bridging the game between the resources they have access to and what the students at the “top schools” have access to. As I’ve posted on here before, I’ll take money from anyone, anywhere, and at anytime if I can use it to help further that goal of helping our students.Report

Matthew Smith
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

So you think that a talk by someone from a 25th ranked Leiter department would offer a worse academic experience than someone from a 5th ranked Leiter department?

I think that this mindset – which reflects a fetishization of a single ranking system – can drive people to chase both higher profile academics and cash, which in turn is something that can lead to conditions where there is a deep disagreement in what values are supposed to be realized in a department search and how a department is run.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Matthew Smith
3 months ago

I said nothing of the sort. I don’t even follow Leiter rankings.Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Matthew Smith
3 months ago

Generally, I think traditional academic talks are a complete waste of time for undergraduates. If I invite a “star faculty member” to speak, it’s been someone like Melissa Harris-Perry, Barry Schwartz, Erwin Chemerinsky, or Heather Gerken. All radical libertarians, I know, but the best people are, right? Generally, I don’t invite academic philosophers from top departments to speak — our students aren’t going to care what they have to say and most would speak over the heads of our students.Report

Kenny Easwaran
Reply to  Matthew Smith
3 months ago

I think the claim is that talks by some individuals will offer better or worse academic experiences than others. I can think of many pairs of individuals at “top 5” and “rank 20-25” places where the comparison goes one way and many pairs where it goes the other. I suppose that means that a boycott of the sort you propose is completely compatible with a colloquium series that is uniformly high quality. But I don’t know that I’m convinced such a boycott is worthwhile.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Matthew Smith
3 months ago

And 1 and 2 are mutually reinforcing. We see a similar dynamic in many other places public resources are in short supply.Report

Matthew Smith
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

Yes I forgot to mention this. The more that “outside” money funds departments, the easier it is to make the case that “inside” money isn’t needed.Report

Not a fan
3 months ago

I worry this discussion is spinning into some sort of payback time against Warmke. I am not a fan of Warmke, and we don’t get along well in online spaces (cf the grandstanding stuff) but this should not be used as some sort of forum to debate his credentials for the position he currently holds. There seem too many entangled issues here: Koch money, the charge of sexism in hiring, animosity in the department… Since the CHE piece leaves out key information and I don’t see that appear here in discussion, I’m not even clear what the topic is here. We can do better than revenge-grandstand here.Report

Prof L
Prof L
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

BW does *in fact* teach courses in the history of philosophy at the graduate and undergraduate level at Bowling Green. CC repeatedly cites the job description which specifies teaching such classes as a feature of the position as evidence that BW was unqualified for the position. (The AOS is disjunctive). This claim thus rests in the supposition that BW is not qualified to teach those classes that he does in fact teach.

So this claim prima facie calls into question the quality of his teaching. While I’m pro-open discussion generally, I can see a strong case for shutting this down, given the personal nature of these conflicts which are being discussed.Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

The allegations are about procedural injustice, not substantive injustice.Report

Trout
Trout
Reply to  Not a fan
3 months ago

“payback time against Warmke”…nobody here has said anything about what Warmke has done or not done for which there would be reason for “payback.” He didn’t illegally hire himself.Report

Adam Omelianchuk
3 months ago

The conflict at BGSU’s phil department is very sad to read about, but as others have pointed out intra-department conflict is common. I’m glad I was spared from its toxic effects in my grad program. I have a lot of sympathy for the grad student mentioned in the article who matriculated in 2013. I was wait listed at BGSU that year and seriously considered waiting it out to see if I could get in. One wonders if I would have finished. I guess all I can say is that for any faculty members who work in a department with grad students, it is very important to not let your conflicts with one another spill over into the learning environment.Report

Trout
Trout
Reply to  Adam Omelianchuk
3 months ago

This isn’t merely “intra-department conflict. This isn’t even political. It is an alleged illegal hire allegedly covered up by a university.Report

Evan
3 months ago

First, there are some vague and fallacious reporting going on with the lawyers’ reports. In regards to the first lawyer:

“Later on, the outside lawyer’s report on Coons’s allegations referenced the earlier investigation and a report that found “misunderstandings, inconsistencies, and procedural errors in the search process” but “no provable conspiracy, manipulation, or intention to disrupt the search.”

The latter things could count as “inconsistencies” and “procedural error.” After all, those things could disrupt the search if in the past there haven’t been such behaviors compared to recently. Of course, this requires a longitudinal analysis of hiring practices of the department for at least 10 years to be confident if inconsistencies occurred.

And what counts as “procedural error”? Were these “procedural errors” intentional or unintended?

The other lawyer Jennifer A. McHugh stated that there was no wrong intentions. She also said, “Koch grant funds have been used to hire faculty members of varying ideologies, and that the Department has hosted speakers with differing political viewpoints.”

Generally, this may be true. But I wonder what ratio of these varying ideologies of faculty members and speakers consist of. How does she know this? Where did she get her data from? The articles says,

“The report cited as an example one department member whose position is funded by the grant and whose research is focused on climate science.”

However, one faculty member is not enough to conclude that the Koch foundation was being fair or impartial she claimed. Until there are some hard data and knowledge of ratios on this matter, we should take her claims about the fairness of the Koch Foundation with a grain of salt. Therefore, at best, it remains unclear *how* impartial or fair the Koch Foundation is in terms of giving grants to faculties of diverse political views.

Second, there is a lack of transparency. Some people on here gave a realist argument that these things happen all the time. But even so, at the very least, departments could be transparent about it, which Coons desired. After all, in the article, he wasn’t really opposed to hiring somebody who has connections with grants or such. Just that they meet other *necessary* terms and conditions:

“Coons peppered Weber with questions about why it had gone the way it did. Why had the vote been so rushed? What was Warmke’s deadline with the other university where he had an offer?
Unsatisfied with the responses he heard, Coons got angry.”

and

“Coons said he didn’t have a problem with the foundation, but was unnerved that he wasn’t told about the colloquium directly.”Report

Frank
3 months ago

90+ comments and I’m not sure anyone has congratulated Justin on this headline. Daily-News-worthy Daily Nous material.Report

Adam Groll
Reply to  Frank
3 months ago

Seems like there are some Koch heads at BGSU.Report

real_email_fake_name
real_email_fake_name
Reply to  Frank
3 months ago

I found that bold causal claim puzzling. One wonders why the headline does not read, for example, “BGSU faculty member accused of harassment claims negative Koch influence, receives institutional reprimand”.Report

Shen-yi Liao
3 months ago

Given that one (but not the only) dimension of this story concerns the involvement of Koch money in philosophy, I think it would be helpful to ask the commenters to disclose, if they did, the extent to which they have received Koch money and for what purposes — as the post did.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Shen-yi Liao
3 months ago

Why? Sounds like the set-up for some ad hominem or genetic fallacy argumentation.Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

Do you oppose conflict of interest statements generally?Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Lewis Powell
3 months ago

Not at all. But it’s not obvious why there’s conflict of interest when a faculty member gets a grant that helps them do their job. But I’ll play along. I think Shen-yi is very rude and wrong to have asked, since I don’t see any sense in which this doesn’t end up with ad hominem or genetic fallacy. But since you ask, I have received small to medium grants from both Templeton and CKF for the PPE program I co-direct. It’s not free cash for me; it means I can bring in visiting speakers, which is a great enhancement for students in the program, and indeed all students, since the talks are public. It means we can do reading groups for small groups of students and have money to buy books for them. Our students tend to be struggling to make ends meet, so if we’re going to do a book club for a scholarly book that costs 80 bucks, it’s nice that we can cover that. What exactly is the “conflict of interest” there? Elite schools can bring in speakers no problem. At a budget-constrained institution, it’s a blessing to be able offer programming similar to the elite schools. How that’s a conflict of interest is beyond me. No one has ever told me or my co-director who we could or couldn’t invite, that we could or couldn’t do a reading group for this or that book. Besides being insulting that you’d ask in the first place, it’s doubly insulting that you don’t ask about people whose budgets come from MacArthur or Gates, or from the Pentagon, or from taxpayers. It’s my job to give my students the best experience I can manage. Getting outside funding for programming is the opposite of a conflict of interest -it’s exactly in alignment with my job description.Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

The relevant comparison to a conflict of interest in this case would be that research funded by a given source has to disclose it, and so, on analogy, the folks arguing in defense of Koch money not causing trouble here who have been beneficiaries are similarly situated with respect to a potential conflict of interest. It’s not an ad hominem charge, no one is saying that it trumps the arguments being made, it is simply the point that, for similar reasons that we expect people to disclose their funding sources and close ties and so on, the request above isn’t especially astonishing or out of line. Especially being, as it is, a request and not some sort of mandate or demand.Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Lewis Powell
3 months ago

(If a faculty member in a department researching fossil fuels was receiving funding from exxon that “helped them do their job” I think they would be expected to disclose that, but that’s neither here nor there for the present case and no one has suggested that the work produced from the Koch grants was inadequately disclosed; the suggestion was people with COI regarding the Koch foundation due to it’s beneficence in their direction might want to disclose it in this thread).Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Lewis Powell
3 months ago

Not sure I agree but I answered the question anyway.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

There would be no COI if one didn’t receive some benefit (a grant, free books, whatever). So one cannot reject the charge that one is compromised, or might be, by citing the benefit one received. The benefit is what gives rise to the conflict in the first place. This is why in many contexts COI disclosures are required.

There’s a rich literature on COI, both normative and empirical, that’s quite interesting and in places surprising, and worth digging into if these issues interest you.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

What exactly is the supposed conflict? Offering students additional enrichment programming is entirely consistent with my established duties. It would be a conflict of interest if I were incentivized to something that were contrary to those duties, but that’s not the case here. There’s no conflict of interest at all, so the only rationale I can see for asking for this sort of “disclosure” is impugn the integrity of the people you’re asking.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

The COI is obvious (which doesn’t mean there’s decisive reason to reject such funding, or to criticize those who accept it): the decisions we make are influenced by those to whom we feel indebted, those on whom we depend, those for whom we feel sympathy, and so on.

You’ve clearly articulated how dependent you are on private money to give your students additional enrichment that would otherwise be unavailable to them (and kudos to you for doing that). But now suppose you are considering inviting someone who, in addition to being an expert on whatever topic you are exposing your students to, has written a series of aggressively critical and high-profile pieces on the Koch network, or similar. And suppose there is another possible speaker who would also be great for your students and who has not written such critical pieces.

Might you choose to invite the latter speaker, not out of some malicious motive, but rather to ensure that you don’t annoy your funder, the entity that allows you to help your students?

This is just one example, a realistic one, of how these things work. COI is not about malice or selfishness or bad character. It’s about the way that incentives influence human decision making and action. Again, there’s a substantial literature on this.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

You keep saying the conflict is “obvious,” as if my integrity is damaged by my incentives. You don’t see why this might come off as insulting? Meanwhile, by this definition, aren’t all state university profs are in a COI situation, as they’d be “influenced” not to introduce work critical of state-funded higher ed, say, or public-employee unionization? Actually, though, I trust my colleagues to do their research and teaching without worrying too much about that angle. So it looks like only some people’s integrity is called into question.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

I can see why someone who interprets claims about COI to be claims about one’s character or integrity would be insulted. What I’ve been trying to explain is that this is the wrong way to think about COI, given both empirical research on COI and widely accepted ethical principles and regulatory guidance found in a wide range of fields (e.g., research, clinical medicine, finance, etc.). Perfectly good, well-meaning people with unimpeachable characters and all the integrity in the world have conflicts of interest, all the time.

As for your example re: state employees, this is one reason why tenure protections are so important. And why we see right-wing efforts to weaken such protections.Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

I take it to be similarly obvious that one should declare one’s affiliation with an employer (e.g. in my case a public university in the SUNY system)—when publishing one’s work—as well, and that this would be especially relevant when one is performing research on subjects like the performance of public universities or the role of the state in education. This is, unsurprisingly, standard.Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Shen-yi Liao
3 months ago

I take money from anyone, anywhere, and at any time, as long as I can use it to make the experience for our students better. That includes Koch. I had an extended post on that a while ago here.

https://dailynous.com/2018/05/09/untangling-strings-limits-acceptable-donor-influence-academia-guest-post-chris-surprenant/

If we’re going to have folks disclose that, it might also be nice for folks to disclose their priors on funding generally and if they have consistency problems. So, for example, if last week you were posting about the travesty at UNC in denying NHJ the tenured faculty position connected to the Knight chair, but have no problems with how that chair was established, you really shouldn’t be complaining about Koch entering into similar agreements.

If people wonder why I go into attack mode when I see articles like this, it’s because every article like this causes someone like me massive headaches. I’ve received a good bit of funding from Koch, I was never supported by them or another else other than BU in graduate school, and I’m otherwise not any sort of hardcore libertarian — I’m basically a moderate lefty. But my own colleagues think I’m evil because I take money from Koch to give our students opportunities and provide opportunities to folks in our community that they wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

Chris, I don’t think your self-attribution of “moderate lefty” is particularly accurate, but to each their own.

Declaring relevant conflicts of interest is a different issue than asking people whether they are being consistent, though they are both worthy things to attend to. My assumption is that people concerned about NHJ were concerned that the board of regents was violating established conditions for when they should overturn faculty recommendations for tenure, which is a separate question entirely from whether or not the King Chairs ought to have been established (and did not bear on the Board’s decision, so is clearly a tangential issue).Report

Chris Surprenant
Reply to  Lewis Powell
3 months ago

Sure, but in discussions involving faculty members connected to Koch-supported positions, the discussions often connect directly to the funding and not the merits of the person being hired. There is a consistency problem.

As for my own views, I support increased public welfare assistance for low-income people, affirmative action programs generally, all sorts of criminal justice reform measures, I’m pretty far on the left on most social issues that related to individual freedom and fair treatment, etc. Our last DA called me a “radical leftist” in a meeting with our president — he chuckled at that. I think we’ve gotten to the point what we don’t know what moderates look like anymore. But that’s a different issue. You see me on Facebook, which means you just see controversial things and pictures of my kids. 🙂 Report

Lewis Powell
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

My focus in these cases tends to remain on procedure, much to the annoyance of everyone who plays board games with me, or who has to hear me talk about Robert’s rules of order or notices that I am looking up the bylaws or the like. I don’t know the general tenure expectations for journalism professors, but I defer to the fact that the journalism faculty including the administration seemed happy to recommend tenure in the one case. The board of trustees ought not intervene to deny tenure absent (roughly) allegations of gross procedural malfeasance or similar. So, the question of why the professorship exists is just irrelevant to my stance on the NHJ case. Standard procedure just results in tenured offer being extended.

There are, in *this* case, allegations of procedural irregularities in multiple job searches, though I am not in a position to evaluate them, and I am not a particularly unbiased judge of some of the allegations. There are other issues being raised here, which have been discussed more productively in other contexts.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Chris Surprenant
3 months ago

If you’d like to see my emails cheering on Kevin for getting smaller Koch grants, please let me know. If you’d like to the see the ones where I (truthfully) tell Kevin I won’t press any investigation into the Warmke hire (and subsequent retaliation) I have have those too. Why did I do this sit quietly? Because Vallier asked me to– doing so will jeopardize the Koch grant. The university opened an investigation on their own and I was the fall guy. It’s all provable. No one cares to look.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Should I show them those emails Kevin Vallier? Or will you start apologizing instead of making the “network” look worse?Report

Untenured Prof
3 months ago

I come away from this with a profound appreciation for the support that I have received from my own department. I have half the publications of Brandon, no OUP book, and I’m teaching courses even farther outside of my area — courses that I never took a single class on. And yet my department has been unfailing in communicating their support of me at every opportunity.

I cannot imagine sitting in department meetings where a colleague repeatedly insisted that he thought I was unqualified for my job and didn’t deserve to be hired and was only hired because of my connections to a morally bankrupt institution. It seems like such constant attacks on a person couldn’t help but undermine their confidence and self-worth. I would never get any work done. Brandon must have much stronger mental health than me.Report

real_email_fake_name
real_email_fake_name
Reply to  Untenured Prof
3 months ago

I like this comment a lot. Thank you for transmitting positive vibes in an otherwise disappointing thread.

I can only hope that my own junior colleagues will be able to say the things you’ve said, UP. Toward that end, I make it a point to not denounce them, even the ones I wasn’t super keen on hiring: not in meetings, not in public, and not to the Chronicle. Perhaps other readers could consider adopting a similar policy!Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Untenured Prof
3 months ago

Please follow this story carefully. Nothing like that happened. I started to come forward and publicly complain after false reports were made about me. [Editorial note: I’ve removed some content from this comment here.] I’m not even allowed to look at job application files in my department: see this thread.

https://twitter.com/coons_christian/status/1397717007001337859

This is small stuff, but it’s the kind of thing that’s easy to show in a snapshot. IHS/Koch affiliated faculty need to say “no” when their other departments/members act like this, not send out minions to defend it. Shouldn’t they be outraged too? Jason? Chris? Brandon? Kevin?Report

MBW
MBW
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

With respect – it’s a common practice for departments to limit access to candidate files to those on the search committee, usually to protect the integrity of the search and afford candidates a reasonable measure of privacy. You keep mentioning this as if it’s some sort of anomaly, but in my experience (as a chair of a committee and as an internal candidate who didn’t have free reign of everyone else’s job files) this is normal. – were you on the search committee?Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

It would also be highly unusual to deny access to one individual but not others, and to do so for specious reasons. Christian illustrates this point on Twitter.

If a department had a general policy of limiting access to dossiers to members of the search committee only (which some departments do), that’s one thing. It’s quite another thing to deny access to some non-search committee members but not others.Report

Toxic rift-TT
Toxic rift-TT
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

In my (admittedly toxic) department, people are regularly denied access to files. Search processes are secret (“confidential”) and any person who complains about this about it is accused of ill-will and questioning the good judgment of their colleagues on the search committee. Any noise about the finalists chosen or search committee members appointed is considered out of bounds and uncollegial. I think it’s beyond the pale, but I don’t think it’s rare.Report

MBW
MBW
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

Not in the searches I’ve run, but maybe we run an unusually tight ship. (We’re pretty collegial but HR/legal are very worried about the threat of lawsuits.) Access to candidate files was controlled by a login, and one’s access had to be specified by HR in advance.

But – like some others, I don’t see the merits of this piece by CHE. The environment sounds toxic, but I’m not sure what is meant by “illegal” – if the ad changed between what the department agreed and what HR published, that’s not great, to say the least. But hiring someone who meets one of the *published* disjunctive AOSs and can teach in the other isn’t illegal, nor is hiring someone in the hopes that they’ll raise the department’s profile and make them more competitive for grants. (That is all compatible with the environment being acrimonious and toxic.)Report

MBW
MBW
Reply to  MBW
3 months ago

To be clear – we’re a two program department, and small, so the search committee included all of the philosophers – but it was pretty clear that we had to figure out who in the department could see what before the process started – we couldn’t change committee members midway through the process, for example.Report

benjamin s. yost
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

It depends what you mean by candidate files. In my old department, the initially submitted candidate files (i.e., every response to the job ad) were available only to the search committee. The SC then produced a long list (10-12 files or so), whose files were distributed to the entire department. The department then voted on the 3 finalists, etc. etc.. From what I understand from the other comments, in some departments non-search-committee faculty don’t get to see the long list files? That’s stunning to me.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

In the three departments where I’ve spent my career (SMU, Rice, Colorado) all application files have been available to be read by all department members who would eventually vote on the appointment (TT faculty for TT hires). At both SMU and Rice the whole department served as the search committee (though sometimes some people would take a more active role than others). At Colorado, which is a bigger department, we have search committees, who narrow down the initial list to a long list (what would be the APA interview list in the days when we interviewed at the Eastern APA). All the voting members of department would vote on whether to accept the long list. While it’s not that common for people outside the search committee to look at applications before being presented with the long list, they are permitted to do so. Given that the department as a whole gets to vote on the initial interview list, the short list to be brought to campus, and the eventual hire, it seems strange to prevent most of them from seeing all the applications. How can I know whether I am in favor of these 10-16 people being on the long list, if I can’t know who else applied, and what their applications looked like?
I understand that some departments prevent members outside the search committee from seeing the applications that don’t make it to some sort of long list (or even, in some cases, a short list). But this strikes me as exceedingly bad practice, inconsistent with all the best principles of transparency and shared governance. The principle that personnel matters should be confidential is irrelevant here, unless only the search committee gets to vote on the eventual hire (which would be a terrible state of affairs).Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Alastair Norcross
Toxic rift-TT
Toxic rift-TT
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
3 months ago

Alastair Norcross: Thank you! I hope our department is the only one that adopts this (as you aptly put it) exceedingly bad practice. Just to clarify: we are not allowed to see the original set of applications at all. We are sometimes (not always) given access to the names (just the names) on the long list. We have sometimes (if you can believe it) been denied access to the dossiers for the short list, save a writing sample. We have never been given full access to any complete dossiers (with letters and teaching evaluations). I am a fairly recent hire and I was shocked when I found out about these search procedures. The department toxicity is partly due to these egregious hiring procedures.Report

Another toxic dept
Another toxic dept
Reply to  Toxic rift-TT
3 months ago

In my large State U. department that lacks a graduate program, the only members who have access to the files, and who vote on the candidates, are the three search committee members. It is a terrible policy, but not unique.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Another toxic dept
3 months ago

Does this voting restriction extend all the way to the final hiring decision? Do only three people decide whom the department gets to recommend to the dean (or whichever is the relevant level of administration at your school)? That sounds even worse than the situation at Toxic-rift TT’s school.Report

Another toxic dept
Another toxic dept
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
3 months ago

On the plus side, there is a qualification that if the three committee members are not unanimous, then the vote goes to the whole department. But if the three are unanimous, then the recommendation to the dean can be made by just the three (who are a minority of the department).

In one of our searches a number of years ago, the committee was happy enough with the #1 candidate (a man) that they offered him the job without bringing either him or the #2 (a woman) to campus.

Prior to that, women were excluded from consideration for (arguably) sexist reasons.

I will say that there has been a change (for the better) in departmental leadership, though not in the rules.Report

Wes McMichael
Wes McMichael
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
3 months ago

I know community colleges are very different, but this is what happens in our small–5 member–department, as well. If a member is not on the search committee, he/she/they cannot know *anything* about the candidates (even who applies).

In fact, we just hired two, 1-year full-timers, and I–as the committee chair–can’t even tell the other members *on the search committee* whom, out of our finalists, we hired until after the board votes next week. It’s really bizarre.

That said, this thread has made me appreciate my department even more. We trust, support, and like each other a lot. When we’ve disagreed, we’ve always done so amicably and come to resolutions that seem fair to everyone involved. I feel bad for everyone at the BGS philosophy department, including the students.

Maybe this thread will motivate them to have some honest, open discussions, maybe with an arbitrator, or some other disinterested third-party. It seems like a terrible work environment right now.Report

SCM
SCM
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
3 months ago

My sixteen year experience of hiring at a terminal MA and then a PhD department is exactly the same as Alastair’s above in both cases. I would regard it as highly irregular if I were denied access to the full set of dossiers, although obviously I would prefer to rely on the judgment of my colleagues on the search committee. There is no issue of confidentiality here: if the members of the search committee are bound to confidentiality, then it doesn’t matter if that means three people or the entire regular faculty.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  MBW
3 months ago

This was after selection of some campus visits, and they were adding some ad hoc (not arbitrarily, ad hoc, not all announced at once), claims were made about about no one being on the alternate list who x and y…etc. I could not view the dossiers of the actual finalists nor learn about the contents of the alternate list. But their work was done. There’s no way any department deprives voting members of seeing the files of the finalists. Right? Come on. Anyway, this has never been our practice before. And this was a violation of university policy, so the “neutral” investigator has to come up with some reason they didn’t fail to comply– did you see the reason?

https://twitter.com/coons_christian/status/1397717007001337859Report

Untenured Prof
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Put yourself in your junior colleague’s position for just a minute. You have repeatedly told him and your colleagues that you think he is not qualified for his position, and accused your colleagues of a variety of violations in department meetings, in emails, in the Chronicle, and in other contexts. This is the environment in which your junior colleague was expected to work for seven years toward tenure. The fact that he has managed to publish more than 20 papers and an OUP book, as well as teach well the history classes he was hired to teach, is remarkable. I could not have done it.Report

Trout
Trout
Reply to  Untenured Prof
3 months ago

You do not have the whole story. The Chronicle and these comments here did not provide you with the whole story. If you knew the whole story, perhaps you’d see things differently. Ask questions, you’ll get answers, but perhaps not on this forum.Report

Bob Lockie
Bob Lockie
Reply to  Untenured Prof
3 months ago

Well saidReport

Ryan Perkins
Ryan Perkins
Reply to  Untenured Prof
3 months ago

This is the best comment on the the entire thread. This sorry episode makes me pleased that I left philosophy a decade ago and got a real job. Academic also need to understand how badly these squabbles appear to an outside observer. Honestly, it looks awful. You are not making a good case for funding philosophy departments.Report

Evan
3 months ago

There are some general issues and a worry that I have noticed. I think it’s common knowledge amongst academics that grants from certain foundations are common. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them in general as long as those foundations respect the academic freedom of professors and don’t interfere with hiring practices. But if hiring committees or individual professors feel they are obligated to advance the aims of these foundations even though these foundations may not require them to do so, then that is a bad faith problem.

If there is no string attached to these grants in a contract, then one should not feel compelled to appeal to their political aims. Contracts are also there to protect the parties from unwritten demands and unnegotiated terms and conditions from each other. I think there is this widespread mutual assumption amongst the public that grants and gifts always come with certain strings attached, which is false. But this is understandable since political lobbying is so common in our culture that we automatically expect the same could happen analogously with higher education grants. I think one of the rationales for the bad faith has to do with the *continuation* of getting these grants. I think that’s one reason why some departments or individual professors pander or appeal to these foundations’ political aims: they’re afraid they’ll lose more funding in the future if they don’t pander or appeal to them.

The other issue I noticed with this whole discussion is the lack of adequate transparency and communication amongst the professors when it comes to governing their own department. These tenured professors are most likely going to spend the rest of their lives with one another working in their department. As such, it is wise and even ethical to communicate directly to each other about things relating to departmental functions. In a marriage, you don’t hide and do certain things behind your spouse’s back without informing or consulting them beforehand. That’s disrespectful and it goes against what it means to “share a life” together. Certain changes to the hiring process or preferences should be consulted with all the members of the committee before making those changes. They’re your colleagues and not your subordinates. Keeping your co-workers in the dark about certain matters will inevitably cause distrust. Just like in a marriage. Disagreement about who to hire is fine. It’s expected. But if there is going to be a change in hiring ads, descriptions, and/or other related procedures, then it is ethical to consult all of your members before you implement those changes. A lot of people take for granted that some or many professors want to be “in the loop” at all times when it comes to their departmental functioning. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully, others can learn from this situation.Report

GradStudent
3 months ago

If this discussion is going to be ongoing one thing we should take from Chris Coons’ comments is that the primary alleged wrong here is not that the hiring process was procedurally unfair, or that the Koch foundation directly meddled in the affairs of the dept. Rather, the main issue is that, allegedly, members of the BGSU phil dept engaged in coordinated retaliation against Coons after he voiced concerns about the hiring process; retaliation that included abusing the University’s formal complaint system in order have Coons censured. This charge, if true, is very serious regardless of whether or not there was in fact anything inappropriate about the hire.

Having said this, I do find some of Coons’ claims a bit hard to square with each other, although this could be due to simply not interpreting things correctly. Specifically, at several points he makes a point of emphasizing that, despite disagreeing with his hire, he was nothing but respectful to Warmke, and indeed thought that they were friends. But at other points he acknowledges that he did complain to other faculty after Warmke was hired that he was completely unqualified for the position. This does not strike me as particularly cordial behavior when directed towards a new colleague, nor does it strike me as behavior that’s compatible with viewing the person as a friend.

Coons does attempt to dissolve this tension by noting that when he made these complaints he did not mention Warmke by name, but given the context it seems clear to me that everyone would have known he was talking about, and Coon’s would have known that they knew etc.

Whether this is appropriate grounds for being censured by the University is another matter entirely however, which I’m not qualified to comment on.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by GradStudent
JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  GradStudent
3 months ago

This seems like a very important point.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  GradStudent
3 months ago

Because the hire was corrupt. For example, the chair proposed we may offer to Warmke before the search was finished because “we were going to lose him” but I’ve never ever been told why–I’ve asked many many times– the Chair refused to tell me “it was complex, get over it, ok?” And at that time, were we to have voted again Brandon would not have won (someone wanted to switch votes on the basis of being misinformed but could not).Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

And here’s me welcoming Brandon and trying to downplay the elephant in the room

https://twitter.com/coons_christian/status/1397994884229910528

Brandon has never denied this, so I don’t appreciate the negative assumptions. The rift comes from discovering misconduct by my chair. This is explained elsewhere.Report

GradStudent
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Hi Christian.

I should have been more clear in my initial post. I do understand that, on your account, the initial wrong in this story is the alleged corrupt hire, which in turn lead to subsequent wrongs involving retaliation against you and potentially others. I made the point that we should focus on the wrong of retaliation and the abuse of the University’s complaint system because, given the information provided so far, I don’t think many people would agree with your assessment that the hiring process was corrupt in the strict sense of the term. Corruption is a seriously offence that generally involves institutional officials abusing their control over procedures or outcomes for private gain. But – again, based on what has been said so far – it doesn’t really sound like this is an apt description of what went on. Instead, it *sounds like* Warmke’s application was given preferential treatment and the job description was correspondingly modified because it was known that his presence would help secure a large influx of cash into the department that was more-or-less in everyone’s interests to have. This does not strike me as very different from routine cases where the university/dept admin exercise discretion by relaxing hiring criteria or bending job search procedures in order to secure an in-demand junior superstar with the potential to secure massive grants/increase the department’s prestige/give department access to a network of great scholars/etc. Although one might argue that these scenarios are problematic insofar as they involve a lack of transparency or minor procedural unfairness vis-a-vis the other applicants, it’s not clear how they count as instances of “corruption” given that the decisions are made with the good of the department and university in mind.Report

JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  GradStudent
3 months ago

This seems like a good point. The hire itself might not have crossed a bright line: the difference between this and other such cases seems mainly like it is mainly due to the lack of universal buy-in regarding the shenanigans. And I’m sure there’s usually not universal enthusiastic buy-in for such, so this is a matter of degree. The most concerning thing, by my lights at least, has to do with the (purported) retaliation against those who voice complaints about the shenanigans. I mean, there have been two threats to sue someone on this thread! It makes me apprehensive to comment, and I’m trying to steer a middle course!Report

Last edited 3 months ago by JDRox
Another graduate student
Another graduate student
Reply to  GradStudent
3 months ago

I’m not sure that that’s the primary alleged wrong. As I’ve scrolled through here and Twitter, I can see at least 5 distinct allegations. I agree that the allegation of retaliation is particularly concerning, but many of the others seem extremely important as well. And many of them seem to have been lost in the weeds a bit. It’s possible I’ve still missed some, but the allegations appear to be:

(1) Procedural injustice/corrupt hiring practices
(2) Retaliation for attempts to address (1).
(3) Sexism in hiring practices
(4) Sexism towards faculty members
(5) Improper interference by admin.Report

GradStudent
Reply to  Another graduate student
3 months ago

Hi,

Yea sorry I should have been more clear. When I said it is the “primary alleged wrong” I meant that this is what we should be focusing on as the primary wrong, because I don’t think the other alleged wrongs are as clear cut/relevant to the debate at hand. To go through the ones you list:

(1) I think while there was some minor procedural unfairness involved in the hiring process, it’s generally accepted that universities are entitled to bend procedure/job criteria to get people they really want so long as they don’t discriminate against protected classes of individuals on the basis of arbitrary characteristics like Gender/Race/Sexual Orientation/etc. I also don’t think it’s accurate to categorize the process as “corrupt” since it seems like the dept/uni admin had everyone’s interests in mind when they decided to hire Warmke on the basis that he would help the dept get a badly needed cash infusion.

(2) This is the one I emphasize.

(3)/(4) Obviously very serious and require investigation but these are separate incidents that (as far as I can tell) do not directly tie into the story at hand or even necessarily involve all of the same actors.

(5) per my response to (1), It’s not clear that the interference by the admin in the hiring was inappropriate given that its standard – and reasonable imo – for universities to bend the rules a bit when there is a junior/senior superstar up for grabs and they have other offers on the table.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by GradStudent
Christian Coons
Reply to  Another graduate student
3 months ago

Yes, more or less. Plus more concerns–sometimes more speculative yet alarming –about the Koch/IHS activities on campus. My bigger point-of public interest has always been, however, that the mechanism that made 1-5 so bad, is our Koch money. It’s not Koch pushing 1-5, it’s what a no-strings grant tied to particular people can do to create such an environment. The mechanism is not “distrust” or ideological difference. I’ll try to explain sometime, but other work needs to be done for a bit. I thought that’s what the piece would be about, it was not.Report

Another graduate student
Another graduate student
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Thanks for responding.

I’ll certainly be keen to read–maybe something a little more long form that addresses the allegations, the shareable evidence (that which doesn’t violate the privacy considerations you reference), and what you take to be of public interest would be helpful for all? I understand that much of this was thrust on all parties because of the publication of the piece in CHE. And, since much came out here in the comments, that wasn’t really possible. I also recognize the legal considerations you mentioned may make this difficult. But I think it’d be helpful.

Of course, I struggle to get much work done when it’s a little bit cloudy, and–if these allegations are true–things are much worse than cloudy for you. And this would be an extra burden.

As a substantive point, I do think that some of the other allegations seem of public interest. Graduate students going on the job market in the near future–for example–have an interest in knowing about unhealthy departments. And allegations of multiple cases of sexism over many years (which seems to be what the claim is) seem like things that are particularly worth knowing about.

Either way, thanks again for responding.Report

not even a junior faculty member
3 months ago

If it is true that as SCM says Brandon deserves congratulations for his recent tenure and promotion, as appears to be corroborated by the CV on his website, which lists his job as associate professor as of this year, this should come as a great relief to everyone concerned that there have been inappropriate “personal attacks being made against a junior faculty member” in this thread.Report

Spencer
Spencer
Reply to  not even a junior faculty member
3 months ago

Collegial behavior matters regardless. And I don’t think that the attacks just started. He apparently was saying Warmke was unqualified from quite early on.Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Spencer
3 months ago

Putting aside the particulars of this case, and the individuals involved, a lot of people have been assuming that to be called “unqualified” is necessarily an insult. It’s not. I have heard people say they were not really qualified for jobs they got, given the ad, or given what they were told were the department’s priorities, etc. One can be an excellent philosopher along dimensions 1, 2, and 3, and yet be unqualified, for reasons that don’t impugn one’s general abilities or character in any way, along dimension 4.

I work in ethics. Had I been hired into a position that required the teaching of philosophy of language, say, I would happily admit that I was unqualified for the job.Report

Spencer
Spencer
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

If you had accepted the job, though it would clearly be an insult, especially if you continued to hear it for years after performing well enough to get promoted. No?Report

Moti Gorin
Reply to  Spencer
3 months ago

If I had accepted a job with AOS phil mind, as an ethicist with no expertise in phil mind? No, not insulting. Imagine my colleague saying to me, “Look, you seem like a nice person and a good philosopher. I like you. I have nothing against you personally. But you have to understand that my colleagues ran a shady search and that, as a result, we hired you, rather than people I believe are far more qualified. I mean, look, you’re not a philosopher of mind. Right? My problem isn’t with you, it’s with the process that brought you here, a process over which you had no control, and for which you are therefore in no way responsible.”

I would not be insulted by this, at all. Sure, it would be an odd predicament in which to find myself, but if this colleague was telling the truth, I’d even sympathize with him and I suspect we’d laugh about it over a beer.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Moti Gorin
JDRox
JDRox
Reply to  Moti Gorin
3 months ago

I have to say I agree with Moti here. I think Brandon is an excellent philosopher, but it sure does read like an ad for a history job…Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Spencer
3 months ago

Spencer, elsewhere on this thread you defend the possibility that a speculative attribution of petty and self-interested motives isn’t a personal attack, but here you insist that a plain statement of truth would be an insult. 🙂
And congrats on your nuptials, by the way.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Alastair Norcross
Spencer
Spencer
Reply to  Alastair Norcross
3 months ago

Thank you! Well, I first said in effect that it wasn’t necessarily petty depending on how seriously you think those sorts of things are. Second, is it the plain truth that Brandon was unqualified? He’s been doing his job well enough to get a promotion. That’s some evidence that he was qualified to begin with. Even the very early job ad draft Coons points to only said it was primarily someone who could teach history of philosophy. That’s consistent with the winning candidate having a different AOS. And the ad that went out made this more clear. Sol saying he *wasn’t qualified* is a stretch. Certainly not the plain truth. Arguably not the most qualified in the pool, but it seems like that is often arguable in job searches and that should be water under bridge at this point. It does seem bad to go on saying your colleague is unqualified for years, now in public, despite evidence of his success. Do you think every colleague you’ve had was the most qualified applicant? Probably not, but you wouldn’t go on making an issue about it for 5 years even if you had serious disagreements with your other colleagues about the selection process, right?Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  Spencer
3 months ago

Spencer, I never said anything about Brandon being qualified or not, and neither did Moti. He said that telling someone they were unqualified for something isn’t necessarily insulting, and he illustrated that with an example. That’s what I was addressing. I have not made any comments about the people involved in this whole sad business. I don’t know enough about it, and know that I don’t know enough, unlike some commenters on this thread (some of whom clearly do know a lot about it, and others clearly don’t know much, but seem to think that they do). I have called out other commenters on this thread for making personal attacks, and then disingenuously trying to claim that they weren’t so doing.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  Spencer
3 months ago

Where do you get your information? Yes he was not qualified by the standards we used, there was a double standard. I , for one, didn’t even think there needed to be a high bar. But I was perturbed when other people with history credentials were removed for not having “enough history.” I liked a standard where Warmke would count as qualified, but that’s not the standard we used for anyone but him. This was objectionable, I kindly made clear to Brandon my view on this matter is in no way denigrating of him, and he knew that, we were friends. I can show the emails. Please don’t comment when you don’t know. Thank you.

[Note: this comment was edited — JW]Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Justin Weinberg
Spencer
Spencer
Reply to  Christian Coons
3 months ago

Possibly someone whose main attraction is history expertise would need more history than someone competent to teach history, but who specializes in something else. Look I don’t know how things played out behind closed doors but I see room for more charitable explanations. Maybe I am biased because Brandon is a friend. But I am genuinely surprised that you would want to have this fight in public over a job search from half a decade ago.Report

Mark Alfano
3 months ago

I say this advisedly, as someone who has taken money from both governments and the Templeton foundation. We would all do well to bear in mind Upton Sinclair’s admonition: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Mark Alfano
3 months ago

There was a whole subthread on this but it’s apparently been removed.Report

Aeon Skoble
Reply to  Aeon Skoble
3 months ago

And now it’s reappeared. Probably some kind of glitch.Report

Justin Kalef
3 months ago

A year ago, I decided not to join in the discussions here any longer. Nothing since then has changed my mind, but I just happened upon this thread and want to say something in support of those who have urged Justin Weinberg to close comments.

I understand that there are issues here worthy of discussion by members of the Bowling Green department. I don’t at all see why this issue needs to be discussed by the greater philosophical community. Colleagues of ours at Bowling Green, on both sides of this dispute, are being publicly attacked here, not always gently, in all the ways one would expect once this discussion thread was opened up. It’s natural that those in the know (as I am not) will want to take the opportunity to set the record straight. And then, inevitably, the whole drama that should properly be confined to the members of the Bowling Green department and the administration there gets played out in this very public forum.

As more and more people join the fray here, bringing their political crusades into this issue (or maybe more accurately, bringing this issue into their political crusades), real human beings are having their names and reputations thrown around in the mud for what seems to me to be little more than a diverting spectacle for the crowd. As always, the smears and insinuations will stick to these people long after the thrill of the spectacle has disappeared in a few days and a new entertainment is offered up.

Personnel issues are discussed in private for a reason. Much of what needs to be known to have this discussion intelligently is none of the public’s business. Nothing in this thread gives me any reason to think that this discussion belongs in any forum outside of Bowling Green. Even if one were to take the position that the entire university is corrupt beyond the point where its administration can be trusted, the right course of action seems to be an appeal to some other body, in private. But even that is presumably best done by those at Bowling Green, not outsiders.

If something like this came up in your department, would you want your name publicly thrown around like this? Would you find it beneficial for the whole philosophical world to hear all the things said for and against you? Would it really make things better, on balance? If not, why should we treat our colleagues this way?

Perhaps the answer is that an article was already written, airing the department’s dirty laundry. But is this the best way to deal with that — by setting up a provocative thread in which those who feel misrepresented by the original airing of the dirty laundry will find it hard to resist engaging in a better airing, so that ultimately the whole private debate gets played out in the arena, this time for the benefit of spectators? Aren’t there better responses to the article? One that suggests itself is silence.Report

Timid Grad
Timid Grad
Reply to  Justin Kalef
3 months ago

The strongest reason to keep it up is that if Coons is right (or his account is at least plausible), then the private discussion clearly has not and likely will not work (and may have contributed to the efficacy of threats, etc.). So depending on whether you find his account plausible, you might think taking it public is the only remaining move.Report

Justin Kalef
Reply to  Timid Grad
3 months ago

I see what you’re saying, Timid Grad: as I said, if it really is the case that the entire university is rotten to the core, I agree that it makes sense to try to bring in some outside party.

But even if resolving a serious, otherwise unresolvable, university-wide problem requires one to air these grievances in public, with the inevitable supermarket-tabloid-level mud-slinging and gossip on both sides, shouldn’t that part of it be kept to a minimum for all involved, and for the dignity of the profession and its members?

Maybe the idea is that there’s no proper authority to turn to on the matter, so the only thing is to repeat the whole departmental drama in public in the hopes that the public will be shocked into… doing what? Somehow rallying a mob to force those at Bowling Green into some sort of action through the sheer loudness of its outrage? Is this the new model for dispute resolution in higher education?

If that is the idea, and things really are that desperate, then doesn’t the sought-after good have to be weighed against the harm all this does to the reputation of the department and its members, the unlikelihood that this really will improve things, and the general harm done by making this kind of a mess and letting this become more of a precedent?

And even if this course of action really is best, the article has already been published. A whole bunch of mud-slinging has already been engaged in. How much further good do you think will result from continuing to keep comments open here? How likely is it that a brilliant new case will be made, or that an irrefutable piece of evidence will come to light, so that the crowd of outsiders will be moved to reasonable collective action? And how likely is it that this will just continue to be, and worsen as, a pile-on against the main characters in the drama?

And with that, I really shall return to silence, lest I be dragged into a meta-discussion.Report

discouraged BG undergrad
discouraged BG undergrad
Reply to  Timid Grad
3 months ago

I guess I don’t see what the comments contribute in that regard. This seems like a reason to disseminate or leave up the article, not a reason to allow random people on the internet to leave comments speculating about the character and motives of the people involved. As someone who knows and respects everyone caught up in this terrible mess, I’m having trouble seeing the comments as anything other than a chance for outsiders to gossip.Report

Trout
Trout
Reply to  Justin Kalef
3 months ago

A public institution that is allegedly covering up illegal activity needs public pressure to stop doing so.Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  Justin Kalef
3 months ago

There is certainly no need to shut this down for my sake, and I imagine that Christian is also in favor of having this discussion. So those who are pleading to shut down this conversation are in effect supporting the other side.

I would point out, however, that if someone acted wrongfully, then there is usually a weaker duty to protect them from the reputational harm of having an informed party reveal that wrongdoing.

And if an ignorant party takes this as an opportunity to launch ill-informed smears about wrongdoing that was not committed, any reputational harm from that is quite insubstantial. We’re savvy enough–or at least, we should be savvy enough–not to believe people who have no real information.Report

Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Molly Gardner
3 months ago

Molly, I’m not sure worrying about potential harms to Brandon effectively amounts to supporting his side, whatever side that is. In fact, someone could be wholly supportive of your side and still think this discussion is needlessly damaging reputations, even if both you and Christian are fine with it. I have no beef in this story and happen to be very sympathetic to your reasons for leaving and your concerns about procedure. But this is not the right way of “having this discussion”.Report

Evan
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
3 months ago

What exactly is the “right way” of having this discussion? Based on what I’ve gathered so far, Coons reached out to the dean, confronted his colleagues, and the department had lawyers (not investigators) involved in trying to resolve this dispute. If all of those previous private procedures didn’t work at resolving the dispute, then it’s unsurprising that it will eventually be made public. I’m assuming going public about this was the last resort, given all the other methods Coons went through.Report

Nicolas Delon
Reply to  Evan
3 months ago

I don’t know and the burden is not on me to spell out the right way to have it. The fact that I can’t tell you, however, in no way suggests that *this* is an even remotely acceptably way of having it.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Nicolas Delon
Evan
Reply to  Nicolas Delon
3 months ago

Perhaps. In the age of the internet, you’d think professionals would be more prudent about being transparent with one another and be cautious about their internal procedures. The Ellen Show was recently and is still under public scrutiny for its years of abuses and covering them up.

I think a lot of us don’t expect our names and/or our workplace to ever end up on the news someday. I guess that’s an example of the 21st Century bad faith.Report

Justin Kalef
Reply to  Molly Gardner
3 months ago

Thank you for that informative response about your wishes, Molly. Had I been in your position, I would not have wanted for this conversation to take place here. It’s helpful to know that you desire otherwise.Report

Nicolas Delon
3 months ago

In person conferences are going to be so chill when we all meet again!

Seriously, I concur with the calls to shut down this discussion, which has clearly gone off the rails and can only do more harm, to all parties, at this point.Report

John McCumber
3 months ago

I was once asked, informally, what advice I might have on setting up a philosophy department at a new campus of an old university. “Don’t set one up,” I said: “philosophers fly so far and so quickly into abstract thought that they lose the capacity to deal with matters of life and profession. Unless a philosophy department is composed of entirely like-minded people, and so on the way to dogmatism, it will tend have wretched politics.”

When the campus was born it had no philosophy department.

That was long ago, but this thread reminded me of it.Report

Alastair Norcross
Reply to  John McCumber
3 months ago

Aphorism informed by anecdote. It’s a pity they asked you. You gave terrible advice.
“Unless a philosophy department is composed of entirely like-minded people, and so on the way to dogmatism, it will tend have wretched politics.” To the extent that there’s any truth to that at all, you can substitute for “philosophy” the name of just about any other department in a university and it will retain the same degree of truth.Report

Last edited 3 months ago by Alastair Norcross
Trout
Trout
3 months ago

Why do we publicly share news about an alleged illegal hire and an alleged cover up by a public university? If there is evidence that proves these allegations are true, why isn’t this evidence shared in the article? If there is counter-evidence, why isn’t that shared in the article? All of you already know the answer to this: it’s hundreds of pages of evidence, hours of recordings, a thousand-page investigative report, etc. How would a reporter begin to untangle that web and present it in such a way that the average reader could follow it? Perhaps, the take-away here for the individual reader who is part of the profession isn’t to make a judgment about the truth, but to help set-up protocols to prevent these sorts of problems from happening elsewhere, and to now consider what resources might be absent from our profession that could help mitigate and resolve these sorts of conflicts. If the allegations are true, if a university is either covering up illegal and inappropriate behavior, or on the other side, enabling ongoing harassment that is impacting members of the department, then this means that normal, internal resources are exhausted–where should members of the department turn for outside (non-legal) assistance? Does the APA, for example, have sufficient resources to assist? Can any member of the department call on the APA to come in and adjudicate, or is it only the Chair who can approve a visit from the APA’s review committee?Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
3 months ago

For those who are interested in the question of whether there was retaliation against Christian, here is one more detail. In the spring of 2020, I was not given the opportunity to vote in the elections we held for various faculty committees. (A new email list was created to exclude me so that I would not receive a ballot by email.) It is likely that I would have voted for Christian to be on a committee. McHugh concluded that this was a violation of our department bylaws.Report

David Sobel
David Sobel
Reply to  Molly Gardner
3 months ago

Was any explanation offered to you for why you were so excluded?Report

Molly Gardner
Molly Gardner
Reply to  David Sobel
3 months ago

It was said (incorrectly) that according to department bylaws, I should not be permitted to vote because it was known that I would be moving to another university in the fall. However, the previous spring, a different faculty member made it known that he would be moving to another university in the fall, but even after the department members knew of his upcoming departure, he was included in 5 separate votes.Report

Christian Coons
Reply to  David Sobel
3 months ago

I don’t know if Molly intends to publicly disclose how she was treated, but it’s pretty remarkable–even after she left. And for only the slightest hints of dissent.Report

Joe Mara
3 months ago

I would like to urge again to shut down this discussion. As far as I can see, there is nothing positive to be gained from letting it go further. I think it is not right, for many reasons, to discuss – in this gossip-like way, members of the BGSU department in ways that impugn their characters and qualifications. I am also worried that those who are connected, in one way or another, with the events raised in the article, might be unintentionally inflicting self-harm here.Report

frmr grad student
3 months ago

This is a tough situation. On the one hand it doesn’t seem quite right to me for personal relationships to play out so publicly like this. It doesn’t seem like it will help the situation. And I feel some sadness for all those involved.

But there is a problem here. A deep and structural one, which has to do with how higher education, including philosophy departments specifically, have been molded by the dominance of neoliberalism and austerity post 1970s. MBAs run the university and squeeze academic labor harder and harder. That’s why departments become dependent on ‘dark’ money like this, and why some people, some of whom are well-intentioned (some seem more suspicious to me), promote ideological money as a feasible avenue for supporting research.

I was a graduate student at a department heavily subsidized by right-wing political money. To me this is not a controversial description: it was very obvious that some people were in the department because their research in some way supported the political aims of the donors. This was a distinctive ‘niche’ in the department, and there was an ever-growing space for such research and programming because of the way it could support itself and draw in money for other research and teaching. And the people who work in this space do hold sincere beliefs, which they even subject to philosophical scrutiny and develop plausible arguments to support.

But to me this is one shortcoming of ‘argument’ in the abstract, the way philosophy today tends to work. It covers over the clearly religious zeal of the whole program, which preaches capitalism as a gospel (in the form of a textbook). I never thought that this kind of philosophical work was right or good. I think the people doing this kind of work (some of whom have been commenting on this thread) are deeply complicit in the human misery and suffering caused by neoliberal capitalism. Oppressive political ideology is in fact dangerous and destructive to propogate and defend, even if done by well-meaning academics who know how to put it in the right dress.

I don’t know if the right thing to do is to shut this discussion down because it is unproductive to dispute this at the micro-cosmic level of a few individuals in one department fighting over one hire. But we need to have this discussion. It would be nice if we could make it about the structural rot and decay that created this situation in the first place, rather than about personal disputes.Report