Some of you may not have heard that the Philosophy department at the University of Colorado has been subjected to a bizarre and extreme administrative takeover designed to force a more welcoming atmosphere towards women. The accusations involved are all unstated or vague (or covered by the veil of secrecy that attends intra-university complaints of harassment). I am not even saying that no professors in the department have done anything wrong. (The one publicly available report accuses some unspecified number of "ogling" female students.) But the sanctions are terrifying and, if applied, some of them are arguably illegal.
A team of feminist activists from the American Philosophical Association was dispatched to evaluate the situation, make recommendations, and submit these to the university's administration. According to this blogger, the administration says it is implementing most of them. I haven't been able to find out whether the ones I'm going to highlight here are among those that the administration is implementing. My cynical guess is that to some degree this point will be left nicely ambiguous so as to keep the philosophers in constant fear.
Here are just two of the most outrageous recommendations:
1) Members of the philosophy department should be forbidden to socialize with undergraduate or graduate students outside of business settings. Presumably this means no having a few students over to your home for dinner. What about one graduate student who happens to be a friend? Who knows, but the language is sweeping. Think I'm making it up? Nope. The language is absolutely clear:
Department members must entirely avoid arranging situations where sexual harassment might happen or where people might think that it is happening. This means no alcohol served at any events connected with the Department (and this must extend beyond only "sanctioned" departmental events), and no evening socializing.
Because of its history, the Department should recognize that it is inappropriate for faculty to socialize with graduate and undergraduate students outside of departmental events, which should be held during normal business hours.
(All emphases are in the original document.)
The report writers are especially exercised about informal meetings in bars (p. 7). But they don't go quite so far as to try to forbid faculty members from going to bars, so I suppose this just means that if any two members of the department, or any faculty member and student, happen to show up at the same bar at the same time, they have to pretend not to know one another.
I must say that it is darkly amusing that the task force complains that faculty are too nit-picky in raising "what-if" scenarios and trying to find ways to evade their draconian rule-making (p. 7). Well, yes, ladies, if you attempt to set up absurdly sweeping prohibitions on the normal human behavior of adult professionals, including prohibiting private social interaction, you will get a certain amount of pushback!
2) But it gets worse, if possible. The recommendations also contain a prohibition on criticizing feminist philosophy when talking with anyone connected with the department. Again, I'm not making this up; it's there in black and white:
If some department members have a problem with people doing non-feminist philosophy or doing feminist philosophy (or being engaged in any other sort of intellectual or other type of pursuit), they should gain more appreciation of and tolerance for plurality in the discipline. Even if they are unable to reach a level of appreciation for other approaches to the discipline, it is totally unacceptable for them to denigrate these approaches in front of faculty, graduate or undergraduate students, in formal or informal settings, on or off campus.
You gotta love the transparently insincere (and logically absurd) attempt to be inclusive--"non-feminist philosophy or feminist philosophy or any other intellectual or other type of pursuit." Taken literally, this would mean that nobody could criticize any "pursuit" at all to anyone else in the department. But let's not kid ourselves. It is impossible to take the "or any other type of pursuit" stuff literally. This is quite clearly a sweeping prohibition on criticizing feminist philosophy to other philosophers, whether in private or in public, on campus or off campus. How could such a prohibition be enforced? Lacking the ability to place microphones in the private cars and homes of faculty members, presumably the enforcers will rely on tale-bearers, as Communists have always done.
This brings me back to a discussion we were having in the comboxes on my post, below. The question arose as to whether state universities should be prohibited to engage in racial discrimination under the 14th amendment and under jurisprudential precedents that treat them as state actors. I pointed out that the implications of not treating public universities as state actors are wide-ranging. This is another such example: I really think there is a 1st amendment lawsuit just waiting in the wings if some philosopher at the University of Colorado is actually punished for criticizing feminist philosophy "in formal or informal settings, on campus or off" to someone other than his auto mechanic--e.g., to a colleague or student. I hope someone in the department puts up a sign on his office door saying, "Feminist philosophy is completely intellectually bankrupt and valueless." I'm sure FIRE would be extremely interested if a state school attempted to punish a professor for such "denigrating" comments. Fresh from their victory on behalf of Mike Adams, they are no doubt raring to go. But such cases do depend on treating a state school as subject to 1st amendment considerations when it comes to constraining free speech--hence, not as a purely private entity.
You may not have much sympathy for philosophers. And I don't know any of the philosophers at the University of Colorado and have no "dog in the fight" as far as defending the propriety of individuals and their actions. But the recommendations of the APA are terrifying. That they should think that anyone should be trying to exercise this type of control over anyone else is stunning in its brazenness. I daresay that even a private Christian school would not attempt to make these kinds of totalizing demands, at least not explicitly: No socializing with any students, no criticizing of such-and-such an approach to philosophy even in private conversations.
Freedom? What freedom? Who cares about freedom? This is the Brave New World.