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.
I’m gearing up to teach a graduate seminar on Hannah Arendt next fall, which involves the lovely task of collecting, re-reading, and sometimes reading for the first time a wonderful assortment of books, all arrayed on my desk, including, by Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism, Between Past and Future, On Revolution, On Violence, Eichman in Jerusalem, Men in Dark Times, Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy, Crises of the Republic, The Life of the Mind, The Human Condition, and the newly published, The Promise of Politics. Books about Arendt are many. I reviewed a few of them for Hypatia (vol. 19, Fall 2004) several years ago. (As an aside, it’s fascinating how people from radically different points of view — agonistic, civic republican, discourse theoretic — appropriate her work and consider it an ally.) And then there are collections of essays devoted to her work: Hannah Arendt: the recovery of the public world, The Cambridge Companion to Hannah Arendt, Politics in Dark Times. Please leave a comment if you have other suggestions!
Reading Ian McEwan’s piece in the New York Times on the passing of his friend Christopher Hitchens, I am transported to a night many years ago when my friend Jonathan Tasini invited me to join him for dinner with Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham and friends one evening in New York. And so we gathered at the famous restaurant, Elaine’s, at a nice round table in the middle of the room: Lewis Lapham, his good friend Christopher Hitchens, “Hitch’s” girlfriend (and subsequent wife) Carol Blue, someone rather pompous from the New York Observer, Jonathan, and me, with Elaine hovering around to check on “Louie.” Clearly she was as delighted to have him and his friends there as we were all delighted to be there. There was much drink, great food, and amazing and rowdy and boisterous conversation. I didn’t know how they could all drink so much and still be so brilliant. The night ended hazily, gray, with us all reluctantly leaving the warm restaurant for cold streets and taxis home. But the warmth of that night will never leave me.
The restaurant Elaine’s closed its doors last May, and now Hitch has taken leave of us too. If there’s a heaven and he finds himself in it, I’m sure he’ll be really pissed. Brilliant man, Mr. Hitchens, I miss you already.
I am coming to see that Marshall McLuhan’s mantra, “the medium is the message,” is true today in a whole new way. In his day, the mass medium showed the world as a global village that one could only watch. Big broadcasting nailed home the message that people are passive bystanders and that the only action that could change that was mass action that might or not be picked up by mass media.
The first generation of the Internet did little to change that. There was more opportunity and ways for individual one-to-one communication (email) or one-to-many communication (corporate web sites) but only e-mail listserves allowed for many-to-many communication, but only for the group subscribed.
Beginning in about 2005, Web 2.0 — with social media software as well as software for blogging and creative production (music, art, magazines) — exponentially increased space for many-to-many communication. It also brought new conceptions of production and action. Anyone could be a producer; no intermediary stood in the way (unless your web site gets hacked or blocked). The new norm is that anyone can initiate action.
That translates into a different conception of citizenship, civic agency that doesn’t have to wait on authority, whether the authority of a group’s elected officials or the authority of a vetter. This morning’s NYT’s piece on the new “literary cubs” perfectly illustrates this phenomenon. Rebuffed or turned off by the literary establishment, they started their own venue, offline and online, creating a space for their own work and a new audience for it. The Occupy Movement has worked along the same lines with activists acting on their own authority to take over a park or block a government building.
The key thing here is they act on their own authority, much as the real meaning of citizenship conveys: a citizen is someone who can call a meeting. If you have to ask for permission, you’re not a citizen.
Many in my generation just don’t get this. They still have libidinal relationships with their leaders (see Vamik Volkan’s Bloodlines), whether love or hate, and seem to think that any independent action is a political rebuke. In a way, it is. But it’s not a rebuke of the legitimacy of leaders; it’s a rebuke of the idea that members, citizens, people should wait for permission to act.
Many in my generation criticized the Occupy Movement for not having a plan, a list of demands, more central lines of authority, as if the power of the movement is the power to push back. They miss the power of collective action to create a space of appearance, a “who” that is we imbued with the message that we can act.
You’d think that by now philosophy conference organizers would stop and think — if all my keynoters are white men, might there be a wee bit of a problem?
I have to think about this all the time as associate editor of the Kettering Review. We put together issues by topic and include pieces ancient and contemporary, some reprinted, others published first by us. Often the first pieces that come to our attention are written by those who have had easier access to the world of letters, generally men of European ancestry. But any one of our issues is always much stronger for seeking out the pieces written by people from the rest of the planet.
So, kudos to the Feminist Philosophers’ Gendered Conference Campaign for keeping us appraised of all those oblivious ones who keep churning out conferences featuring men only.
Begining this summer, I am on this committee, the APA Commitee on the status and future of the proffssion, effective July 2012. I am now trying to discern what this commitee has done over the years and what good it needs to do in the immediate future. Please le me me know your ideas and concerns.