My good friend, the composer Carman Moore, whom I talk with much too rarely, wrote me a little poem many years ago. I keep a copy of it handy wherever I’m writing, and it serves me well. So I offer it to all of you who happen across this blog. It’s sage advice. And note the composer’s riffs:
Be extreme, extremely you,
Follow the good line all the way.
Then maybe it bears repeating.
Then maybe it bears variation.
Then maybe it bears offspring.
When it’s over, you’re changed.
You can never go back to where you were.
After all these long years I notice something I hadn’t considered deeply enough before: by being extremely oneself one changes . We can never go back to who we were. So who is this “self” that one was being so ardent to? Maybe a daimon?
The Stony Brook philosopher and executive director of the International Association for Philosophy and Literature, Hugh Silverman, died last Wednesday after a battle with prostate cancer. I didn’t know him well, but every time I saw him there was a smile and a hug. A good soul and now with his passing a real loss to philosophy. Read this moving tribute from Peter Gratton.
Last September the deans of Emory University’s College of Arts and Sciences and Laney Graduate School announced a fait accompli – cuts to program and curricula in the arts and humanities, among others. This came as a complete surprise to the entire faculty, though a few members subsequently said they saw it coming. College and university bylaws stipulate that the faculty has primary responsibility for the curriculum, but the only faculty consultation was with a small committee sworn to secrecy that only reported to the dean of the college.
In a recent fiasco, Emory University President James Wagner held up the 3/5 compromise that rendered black Americans 3/5 of a person for the purpose of representation as a model of compromise. Mostly lost in the uproar that has ensued is what he was trying to do: make an analogy between the 3/5 compromise over representation of black people in 1787 and now what he sees as the need for compromise over the future of liberal arts at Emory University. In its own horrible way it was an apt analogy because in both cases those making the decisions never remotely considered consulting those affected. In 1787 it was elite white leaders deciding. And in the present at Emory, it is only the administration deciding.
“It’s based on an idea of democracy that we don’t really hold today. The way the 3/5 compromise got built was that a group of white men went into a building and decided what the rest of the nation would have to deal with in terms of the Constitution, not only for enslaved people but for women, for African Americans, for Native Americans who were still part of the U.S. at that point. That’s not really how we think about governance today or democracy.”
Nor is it how we should think about University governance today, but that seems to be exactly the way Wagner still thinks about it now. Even after all the apologies he’s made, he’s yet to acknowledge that there is anything wrong with the administration going into a building and fundamentally disenfranchising the faculty of the liberal arts, including, ironically, a disproportionate number of people of color.
Emory University President Jim Wagner’s recent piece in the Emory Magazine has created a huge stir because it invoked the 3/5 compromise (between the US North and South around slavery — leading slaves to be counted as 3/5 of a person) as a model of compromise during polarized political times, such as we have now. I won’t be surprised if this huge gaffe of Wagner’s — and his entire office — gets him fired. Better, he should just resign. But in the twitter firestorm that has ensued, little attention has been paid to the supposed polarization he was really pointing to: those who think the liberal arts are integral to human flourishing and those who don’t.
At Emory of late we have had many discussions about the ideal—and the reality—of the liberal arts within a research university. All of us who love Emory share a determination that the university will continue trailblazing the best way for research universities to contribute to human well-being and stewardship of the earth in the twenty-first century. This is a high and worthy aspiration. It is tempered by the hard reality that the resources to achieve this aspiration are not boundless; our university cannot do everything we might wish to do, or everything that other universities do. Different visions of what we should be doing inevitably will compete. But in the end, we must set our sights on that higher goal—the flourishing liberal arts research university in service to our twenty-first-century society.
As shocking as Wagner’s invocation of the 3/5 compromise to make a point is, let’s not lose sight of the point he was trying to make: that maybe the value of the liberal arts should be compromised. That is the issue he is addressing. But if there’s a debate on the value of the liberal arts, let’s have that debate. But rather than do so, the Emory University administration has been unilaterally deciding the outcome of this question. The vast majority of programs chosen for closure in the recent cuts at Emory have been in the arts and humanities. Rather than any open opportunity to come to a collective compromise, the process for the decisions (consulting a committee sworn to silence, which never kept minutes, and hugely underrepresented faculty in the humanities) compromised any chance that those targeted in the humanities could have their say.
So, in sum, Emory’s president uses an egregious example to make a case for compromise but is not in fact interested in real compromise at all.
Hey there friends, I’m organizing this conference and there’s still time to get on the program:
Advancing Publicly Engaged Philosophy, March 14-16, 2013, Emory University Conference Center, Atlanta, Georgia, Keynote Speaker: Elizabeth Minnich
Early Registration extended to February 8, 2013. Those who register early pay a lower fee and will be listed on the program as discussants for any workshop they get in. Workshops are filling up quickly. TO REGISTER GO HERE: http://publicphilosophynetwork.ning.com/page/public-phil-conference
The Public Philosophy Network (PPN) brings together theorists and practitioners engaged in public life. Rather than merely try to apply theoretical insights to practical problems, PPN seeks to create spaces for mutual reflections on the meanings of public problems and the practice of philosophy itself. PPN engages theorists and practitioners online and offline, online through its interactive web space http://publicphilosophynetwork.ning.com and offline through its national conferences that occur every 18 months.
A key feature of the conferences is the participatory workshops on a range of issues related to publicly engaged philosophy. Additionally there are plenaries, paper sessions, and organized sessions, though all aim to be participatory models of public engagement. Workshop topics for the upcoming conference are listed below; for full descriptions and the full conference program, go to: http://publicphilosophynetwork.ning.com/page/conf-program-draft
The 2013 conference is sponsored by Emory University and co-sponsored by the American Philosophical Association, George Mason University, Penn State University’s Rock Ethics Institute and Michigan State University.
After registering for the conference, you will be prompted to sign up for workshops, listed below.
FRIDAY MORNING WORKSHOPS
• Taking Philosophy into the Field of Science and Technology Policy: Toward a Paradigm for Publically Engaged Philosophy, facilitators: Adam Briggle, J. Britt Holbrook, Robert Frodeman, and Kelli Barr, U. North Texas.
• Philosophy Behind Prison Walls, Pedagogy, Praxis, and Infrastructure, facilitators: Brady Heiner, California State University, Fullerton; John D. Macready, University of Dallas; Marianne Patinelli-Dubay , SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.
• Creating Public-Public Partnerships: Utilizing Universities for Participatory Budgeting, facilitators: Michael Menser and Kwabena Edusei, Brooklyn College
• Streets, Surfaces, and Sounds, facilitator: Gray Kochhar-Lindgren, Univeristy of Washington Bothell
• Race, the City, and the Challenge of Praxis, facilitators: Ron Sundstrom, University of San Francisco; Frank McMillan, Organizer, VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith CommunityEngagement)
• Performing Philosophy: Participatory Theater as a Means of Engaging Communities Philosophically, facilitators: Sharon M. Meagher and Hank Willenbrink, University of Scranton
• Using Non-Cooperative, Experiential Games to Teach Sustainability Ethics, facilitator: Jathan Sadowski, Arizona State University
• Scientific Advisory Committees, Controversial Issues and the Role of Philosophy, facilitators: Paul Thompson, Michigan State University; Bryan Norton, Georgia Tech University; Mr. Gene Gregory, former President and CEO of the United Egg Producers; Kyle Powys Whyte, Michigan State University
SATURDAY MORNING WORKSHOPS
• Philosophy of/as Interdisciplinarity Network (PIN) or Philosophy and Interdisciplinarity: Reflecting on and Crossing Boundaries, facilitators: Adam Briggle, J. Britt Holbrook, Robert Frodeman, University of North Texas; Jan Schmidt, Darmstadt University; Michael Hoffmann, Georgia Tech
• Challenging the Culture of Sexual Violence: Moral Literacy and Sexual Empowerment as Tools of Transformation, faciliators: Sarah Clark Miller and Cori Wong, Penn State University; Ann Cahill, Elon College.
• Engaged Philosophy and Just University-Community Partnerships, facilitators: Dr. Ericka Tucker, Cal Poly Pomona University and Emory University; Dr. Vialla Hartfield-Méndez and Letitia Campbell, Emory UniversitY; Hussien Mohamed, Director of Sagal Radio, OUCP.
• Hip-Hop as Public Philosophy, faciliatators: Roberto Domingo, Stony Brook University; Jo Dalton, French rap-producer, activist, and former gang leader ; Amer Ahmed, Chair of the National Hip-Hop Congress; Michael Benitez Jr., Director of Intercultural Engagement and Leadership, Grinnell College
• Sagacity and Commerce, facilitator: David E. McClean, Rutgers University, Molloy College
• Practical Epistemology and Sustainable Inquiry, facilitators: Karen Hanson and Naomi Scheman, University of Minnesota
• Public Philosophy Journal: Performing Philosophy as Publication, facilitators: Christopher Long and Mark Fisher, Penn State University.
• Equity and Climate Change: Opportunities for Research, Teaching, and Advocacy, faciliators: Andrew Light, George Mason University and Center for American Progress; and Paul Baer, Georgia Tech
In a “revisioning fact sheet” published December 7, 2012, on Emory University’s news page following student protests, the Emory College administration gave a brief account of the rationale and process for its plan to close and reorganize programs “in order to reallocate funds to support others areas of the arts and sciences program.” The first five “facts” offered an account of how the process followed the bylaws and appropriate consultation. I believe these claims warrant another look. The claims listed below are taken verbatim from the administration’s fact sheet. The alternate account below each claim draws on documents from college and university governance, open letters from and to various official bodies, AAUP documents, and news accounts. I had help from a few other faculty members in writing this up. I invite others to use the comments section to make further corrections, both to the university’s account and to the alternative account I am offering. It is indeed a very complicated story.
Claim: The process was guided by the bylaws adopted by Emory College of Arts and Sciences faculty 11 years ago.
Counter-Claim: The ECAS bylaws allow the Governance Committee (GovCom) to appoint a subcommittee. On 2/11/2009 GovCom announced that it had formed a subcommittee named the College Financial Advisory Committee (CFAC), which previously had been an ad hoc committee appointed by the dean after the financial crisis of Fall 2008. Per the minutes of the 2/11/2009 meeting, in its new incarnation the subcommittee CFAC would report to GovCom. But in the intervening years all the duly elected members of GovCom did not receive reports from its subcommittee. According to the minutes of its April 2011 meeting, one member of GovCom, Michael Sullivan, “expressed the concern that although this committee reports to GovCom, much of its discussion is deemed confidential. Thus GovCom is seen to be responsible for a committee while being kept in the dark about its work.” (See these minutes from the April 20, 2011 meeting of GovCom.) While it is true that the bylaws allow the GovCom to appoint a subcommittee and that there are no provisions in the bylaws for how this subcommittee should be constituted or how long its members should serve, that the full GovCom was not apprised of its subcommittee’s work raises questions about how well it could oversee the subcommittee or report to the faculty what was happening.
Without regular and full reports from CFAC to GovCom, GovCom gave only sporadic and brief reports in its minutes to the faculty. (See GovCom minutes on Blackboard.) Moreover, the membership of the CFAC subcommittee of GovCom is not listed on the GovCom’s webpage or in its folder on blackboard, making it difficult for the faculty as a whole to know or inquire about the process. And according to a story in the Emory Wheel, the chair of CFAC had at times purposely deceived faculty members who inquired about the process. This lack of communication departs from the mandate laid out in Article V of the bylaws that GovCom and the other standing committees have (exempting a specified few per Article 5, Sect. 2, H) to communicate with the faculty as a whole.
Emory University bylaws state in Article IV Section 1 that the faculty has “responsibility for… and jurisdiction over” curricula and instructional programming, while Section 2 states that the administration is responsible to “exercise leadership in the development of educational policies and programs.” Together these statements articulate the principle of shared governance, which is at the core of the statement on governance agreed to in 1966 jointly by AAUP, the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB). Emory University is a member of both ACE and AGB.
Claim: The process has taken more than three years and involved appropriate consultation with duly elected faculty committees.
Counter-Claim: Appropriate consultation would have followed the principle laid out in section 2 of the Statement on Joint Government of Colleges and Universities:
The framing and execution of long-range plans, one of the most important aspects of institutional responsibility, should be a central and continuing concern in the academic community. Effective planning demands that the broadest possible exchange of information and opinion should be the rule for communication among the components of a college or university. The channels of communication should be established and maintained by joint endeavor. Distinction should be observed between the institutional system of communication and the system of responsibility for the making of decisions.
The shortcomings in full communication described above seem contrary to the Statement’s call for “the broadest possible exchange of information and opinion” within the Emory College of Arts and Sciences.
The situation is even more problematic with the decisions made by the dean of the Laney Graduate School. LGS’s governance structure calls for consultation with Directors of Graduate Study, an elected Executive Council, and an Appointments Committee. In an open letter to AAUP and the LGS faculty, sent to the LGS Dean on November 15, 2012, members of the LGS Executive Council, which bears responsibility for long term program development and planning, expressed dismay that they had never been consulted.
In addition to open communication with the faculties and representatives of the college and the graduate school, appropriate consultation would have also included many other faculty bodies: the Provost’s commission on the liberal arts, the collective of department and program chairs, and the Humanities, Science, Social Science and Arts Councils, not to mention the full faculty or members of affected departments themselves.
Claim: Consultation appropriately involved faculty rather than students, since faculty have authority over the curriculum.
Counter-Claim: As noted above, consultation did not appropriately involve faculty. If it had been an appropriate process, students should have been welcome to participate. As the Statement on Government of Colleges and Universities states,
When students in American colleges and universities desire to participate responsibly in the government of the institution they attend, their wish should be recognized as a claim to opportunity both for educational experience and for involvement in the affairs of their college or university. Ways should be found to permit significant student participation within the limits of attainable effectiveness.
Claim: The authorized faculty committees have endorsed both the process and the outcome.
Counter-Claim: As noted above, the LGS Executive Council has explicitly stated that it was never consulted. Moreover, College faculty have repeatedly questioned aspects of the process. Even former Provost Earl Lewis noted during his address to College faculty on Oct. 30, 2012, that “the process was flawed” although he deemed the outcomes to be correct.
Claim: These decisions and the process by which they were reached have been endorsed by the Provost, the President, and the Board of Trustees of the University. The Board also recently reaffirmed its support for the decision, the process, and the work of the deans of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Laney Graduate School.
Counter-Claim: While these decisions do have endorsement from the upper administration, on December 12, 2012, the Emory College faculty voted in favor of a motion to appoint an independent, faculty review of the process leading to the decisions.
Emory President James Wagner gave his annual State of the University address last week. For those, like me, who weren’t able to attend, here are some links.
First, click here to read the story in the student newspaper plus comments.
University President James W. Wagner engaged in heated discussions with faculty, staff and students at the ninth annual State of the University Address Tuesday evening.
Second, a link to the youtube video of the address itself (minus the heated question and answer session).
And third a link to an audio file of the Q&A.
For my intro to feminist philosophy course, I am reading Louise Antony’s essay, “Natures and Norms,” which is her engagement with Martha Nussbaum’s defense of an internalist account of human nature. As a pragmatist poststructuralist and a reader of Arendt, I find the endeavor to ground human dignity in some essence curious and mistaken. But I see the appeal. Without some kind of fixed nature, some might call for such radical relativism as to say that others don’t feel pain the way we do and so we can let them live their lives in squalor. Well, that’s Antony’s and Nussbaum’s worry, but I think it’s overblown. Surely there are many alternatives in between.
To me the obvious alternative to searching for human nature or abandoning the notion of human altogether is thinking of being human as a project, something we might achieve under the right conditions: clean water and good food, communities that sustain us, immersion in a language that helps us think, opportunities to choose a life and make a difference, recognition from others, and more. Given such conditions we might become what we recognize to be human, which is itself an idea and phenomenon that has emerged over thousands of years of development. Absent such conditions we’d be the feral child who cannot interact meaningfully with others.
Okay, there’s a lot more to it than this. But this has got me thinking that it would be great to draw up a syllabus for a senior seminar or graduate seminar on “humanity.” What texts would we include? Surely, Aristotle’s the Nicomachean Ethics, Kant’s Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Arendt’s The Human Condition. What else? What texts would you add?
Calling all philosophers who do publicly engaged work. The Public Philosophy Network’s second conference on Advancing Public Philosophy is scheduled for March 14-16, 2013, right here at Emory University. Here’s the call for proposals:
The Public Philosophy Network invites proposals for its second conference on Advancing Publicly Philosophy. The conference will include a mix of workshops, panels, papers and informal sessions on various issues in public philosophy, including discussions of larger philosophical questions about how to engage in philosophical activity outside the academy and on concrete projects and political problems as well.
We invite proposals that cover topics related to understanding and advancing public philosophy, including the following:
- philosophical work that engages various publics through research or social action projects;
- philosophical work on substantive policy issues (for example, climate change, gay marriage, housing policy, fiscal policy, welfare, public health, among many others) with attention to public effects of this work;
- skills needed to engage in public work (such as how to do collaborative work or use social media);
- practical matters and best practices in public philosophy (for example, tenure hurdles for publicly engaged work, outreach programs in prisons, sources, methods and strategies for attaining funding, etc.); and / or
- reflections on how the philosophy is transformed by turning outward; how does public engagement inform philosophical concepts and understanding or alter disciplinary boundaries?
Proposals should specify the format: workshop, paper, or organized panel.
Workshops. Proposals should include a workshop title and descriptions of the organizer(s)’ interest and experience with the subject matter and how the topic is of concern to philosophy or public life. Proposals should also include an overview of how the three-hour workshop will proceed, highlighting how it will be participatory and indicating any non-academic participants you might invite. We anticipate that workshops will take different formats, depending on the issues being addressed and the number and type of participants. The goals of these sessions are to foster partnerships and projects, whether new or ongoing, and, where appropriate, to spark substantive dialogue between philosophers and “practitioners” (public policy makers, government officials, grassroots activists, nonprofit leaders, etc.). A second call will be issued later in the year inviting people to apply to participate in the workshop. (Workshop organizers should help publicize this second call.) We will limit each workshop to about 20 participants. Those who are accepted in time will be listed on the program as discussants, though they will not be expected to make any formal presentation.
Papers. We are especially interested in papers that report on public philosophy projects or reflect on the practice of public philosophy. Proposal should include the title and a brief description of the paper. Proposals for individual papers should be prepared for 30 minutes of presentation and discussion time. Accepted proposals will be grouped into sessions. Papers may be presented in any style, from reading whole or sections of papers to more conversation based to powerpoint slides and multimedia.
Organized Panels. We invite proposals for panels on any number of themes: Book sessions, philosophical issues in public philosophy, or policy problems and how philosophers have or may engage them. These sessions could include a traditional set of three papers followed by discussion or more informal brief panelist remarks followed by interactive discussion among panelists and the audience. Proposals should include names and affiliations of proposed panelists, the proposed format, and an abstract of the topic to be addressed.
All meeting space will have Wi-Fi; a screen and projector will be available for those who need it. Please submit proposals on topics like those described above (350-500 words) by August 1, 2012 via http://publicphilosophynetwork.ning.com/page/submission-form
A notification on accepted workshops, papers, and panels will be sent by September 1, 2012.
Please notify us if you require accommodation for disability.
Conference Steering Committee
Noelle McAfee, Emory University (chair)
Adam Briggle, University of North Texas
Robert Kirkman, Georgia Institute of Technology
Andrew Light, George Mason University & Center for American Progress
Sarah Clark Miller, University of Memphis & Pennsylvania State University
Kyle Powys Whyte, Michigan State University
One of my most instructive teachers, one I’ve been quoting for 30 years, one who I met in words but never in person, just left this world. In my 20s Adrienne Rich taught me about how to submerge myself in poetry, to dive into the wreck, to stare in wonder at it, and to think twice or more times about oneself. Her essay on compulsory heterosexuality was one of those illuminating moments. I liked her essays. I loved her poetry, though sometimes I was a bit put off by its polemic. Do art and overt politics mix well? Is Guernica, for example, as political art, something that calls out the horror, not the wonder, of life?
So, yeah, I found myself putting up with her political messaging through poetry, but I was compelled nonetheless. As someone who spends a good deal of my life writing, her words from her poem “North American Time” (in Your Native Land, Your Life) regularly haunt me. Stanza II,
Everything we write
will be used against us
or against those we love.
These are the terms,
take them or leave them.
Poetry never stood a chance
of standing outside history.
One line typed twenty years ago
can be blazed on a wall in spraypaint
to glorify art as detachment
or torture of those we
did not love
but also did not want to kill
We move but our words stand
for more than we intended
and this is verbal privilege
Rich is writing about a level of responsibility that is beyond what is usually expected. The usual complaint is “how did I know what someone else would do with my words?” One’s responsibility is to anticipate it. That’s the kind of responsibility that runs through Adrienne Rich’s work and this very poem. Stanza V:
Suppose you want to write
of a woman braiding
another woman’s hair —
straight down, or with beads and shells
in three-strand plaits or corn-rows —
you had better know the thickness
the length the pattern
why she decides to braid her hair
how it is done to her
what country it happens in
what else happens in that country
You have to know these things
All these lines come to me unbidden all the time. Wherever I am inquiring, especially into new areas where I might not know much, I have to learn the context and situation deeply. I can’t just drop in to some scene and start philosophizing without any sincere curiosity and concern about what is going on. I need to know these things.