The Magazine

The Professor’s Tale

What is it like to be a man in philosophy?

Jun 30, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 40 • By CHARLOTTE ALLEN
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All this would make for a merry tale illustrating the adage “Hell hath no fury like a woman who discovers that her man has been whispering the same sweet nothings into the ears of other females as he’s been whispering into hers.” It would also make for a merry tale of hypocrisy among sanctimonious progressives in academia. “Global justice” typically involves requiring citizens of wealthy First World countries to hand over their income and assets (via taxes) for “redistribution” to impoverished Third World countries, on the theory that they’re complicit in Third World poverty. It’s always fun to see a vegetarian guru of redistribution who also happens to occupy a cushy position at a prestigious East Coast university doing a bit of redistribution of his own on the side. Anonymous lamented: “I falsely assumed that the man who calls affluent westerners human rights violators would treat women with dignity.” Surprise, surprise!

And finally, this ought to be an inspirational tale for grad-school nerds laboring in the library stacks trying to finish their philosophy dissertations: Get yourself a job in “global justice,” and you’ll have more progressive females in sexy negligees throwing themselves at you than there are stars in the sky or Third World kleptocrats.

Unfortunately, this story, while certainly all of the above, has a dark side. It is also a story about a vendetta, actually one of a series of vendettas waged by feminists over the past few years against philosophy professors and philosophy departments. The campaigns typically make broad claims about sexual harassment, but the incidents alleged typically fall short of what would be required to make a legal case of assault, sexual quid pro quo, or maintaining a hostile workplace or academic environment. Yet they are remarkably successful, partly because universities these days are terrified of running afoul of the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR under the Obama administration has been issuing increasingly draconian rules and press releases regarding campus harassment, including a May 1 “name and shame” list of 55 institutions, from Harvard on down, that are under OCR investigation for improper handling of harassment complaints. In 2013 the University of Miami forced a star philosopher on its faculty, Colin McGinn, to resign over a series of ill-considered but clearly consensual double-entendre emails and text messages he had exchanged with a female graduate student then working as his research assistant. Early in 2014, the University of Colorado-Boulder ousted the chairman of its philosophy department after a report that some professors had gone out drinking with graduate students and other professors had been observed “ogling” female undergraduates.

And in the case of the Ivy League global justice professor, within days of the appearance of Anonymous’s article in Thought Catalog, he was specifically identified by a number of feminist activists—including Anonymous herself—as
a Yale professor who had allegedly made sexual overtures to a female Yale undergraduate while serving as her senior-essay adviser and, after her graduation in 2010, employing her as a researcher and translator. That woman is reportedly preparing to sue both the professor and Yale itself, which, according to a September 30, 2011, article in the student newspaper, the Yale Daily News, had found “insufficient evidence to support the allegation of sexual harassment” and merely issued the professor a reprimand for improper business practices.

In short, the global justice professor has been effectively “outed”—linked irrevocably not just to a taste for trysts in hotel rooms around the world but to a concrete allegation of sexual harassment on his own campus. He may win the lawsuit if it is ever filed (those cases are hard to prove), but that’s beside the point. Everyone in the philosophy world is now pretty certain who he is (he has been named on several philosophy blogs), and his career in academia, if not formally finished, may well be mortally wounded. Several well-known philosophers at other universities are more or less calling for his head. Global justice, indeed.

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