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July 19, 2011


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Shamik Dasgupta

If however you insist on keeping the page up, then I request in the strongest possible terms that you completely overhaul your "statement of methods".

Say what you want about the Leiter report, at least it does what it says on the tin. The evaluators are listed, the questionnaire that they fill out is clearly displayed, and (perhaps most importantly) there is a clear method by which evaluator responses are turned into a ranking. Since the methods are so clear, the reader is in a position to judge for herself how much credence to put in the rankings. If you don't like the methods, you can ignore the ranking (and advise others to ignore it too... hence the ongoing debate!)

One of the most disconcerting things about the "Climate for Women" page is that there is no comparable statement of methods. We now have the questionnaire (thanks to Liz Harman's request!), but the website doesn't tell us who the evaluators are or (more importantly) how the evaluator responses are turned into the lists we see on the page.

It is only by hours of trawling through blogs like this that it becomes apparent that the chairs of the relevant departments were not contacted directly for information about gender equality efforts, that the data is largely based on here-say collected by 45 people listed elsewhere in your website, that there were few explicit criteria for turning evaluator responses into lists, and so on. **This needs to be explicit to the reader of your website**. If it isn't, you risk misleading a reader who hasn't trawled through these blogs into thinking that the lists are based on more data than they actually are. Since I'm sure you don't want to mislead, it is imperative that you put all this information up on the page. I thank you for adding Liz Harman's disclaimer, but in my opinion it does not go far enough. An honest disclaimer would include the kind of information described earlier in this paragraph, at a minimum.

If you're not comfortable putting that information up, you should take the page down. Either option is defensible. But to keep the page up without an explicit statement of methods is not.

Helen Yetter Chappell

Linda - Here is what I hope to be a productive suggestion.

Shamik is clearly right that if you leave up the Climate rankings, they need to include a visible and explicit statement of the methodology used to generate them. But I don't think this is sufficient. The "Climate" rankings are marketed as giving information to students and their mentors about whether or not there "are causes for concern about gender equality for graduate students" at various departments. It is now more than obvious that the Climate rankings do not give reliable information about any such thing. I think continuing to market these rankings as providing such information (even if you admit that it's fallible) is harmful to women in the profession.

BUT... I think that you could leave up the rankings while addressing all of the concerns that people have raised here and elsewhere if you simply present them as what they are. Rather than calling the page "The Climate for Women in Philosophy", call it "Feminist Philosophers' Perceptions of the Climate for Women in Philosophy". Rename the two lists to be called something like "Perceived to be Strong Departments for Women" and "Perceived to Need Improvement on Gender Equality". Revise the description of the purpose of the climate rankings so that it says something like:

"These lists reflect the perceptions of the climate for women in various philosophy departments as judged by a group of leading feminist philosophers [link to advisory board]. Those schools listed as "Perceived to be Strong Departments for Women" are departments that were widely perceived by feminist philosophers to be places where there was no causes for general concern about gender parity. Those schools listed as "Perceived to Need Improvement on Gender Equality" are departments where feminist philosophers generally perceived there to be a potential cause for concern about gender equality. We hope that by collecting the perceptions of leading feminist philosophers we will spark dialogue about the actual climate for female graduate students at these (and other) philosophy departments. We hope that ultimately, this will result in increased attention to the climate for women in philosophy, and will spark departments to work to improve their internal climates."

This should preserve what you've most recently touted as the benefit of leaving the "Climate" ranking up: namely, that it's generated inter- and intra- departmental dialogue about the climate for women in philosophy. It would also avoid the problems that so many of us here, on Leiter, and elsewhere have been upset about.

Helen Yetter Chappell

(The Home page would also need to be changed so that it no longer claimed that the Pluralist's Guide offered students and mentors with information about "where students from traditionally under-represented populations might reasonably expect to find a welcoming environment". Rather the claim would be that the Pluralist's Guide (1) offers students and mentors information about what programs are good places to study the following areas of philosophy... and (2) provides the profession as a whole with a survey of the perceptions of feminist philosophers on department climates for women.)



I would like to know what channels were went through in the removal of Oklahoma from the 'Needs improvement' list. Was there a vote? Who voted? Did people on the advisory board who had 'strongly disagreed' with the questions asked in regards to Oklahoma retract their ballots?

A parallel: the PGR does not change rankings - once they are in they are in. There is, however, a note added to the top of the specialty rankings page observing movements in the field. That is, if Rutgers (the number 1 ranked phil/language program) lost ALL of their faculty specializing in phil/language, they would still be ranked number 1 until the next survey (at which time it would be expected that they drop off the rankings completely). It would, however, be observed, that all of their faculty had moved. It is not in the right of Brian or any group of people, outside of a complete revote of that specialization category, to remove Rutgers from the list. (see: http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/breakdown.asp)

So I guess I have a question of methodology, or, really, of policy: how are changes to be made to the guide? You have said time and time again that the climate section will be redone annually, however a change has already been made. How were that change made? I hope you (or someone else) didn't just feel satisfied with Oklahoma's responses online and go edit it yourself. This is an important question, and I would appreciate an answer.

Helen Yetter Chappell

Someone was kind enough to email me pointing out a problem with my suggested revision to the presentation of the rankings:

"a recent comment you made about proposed changes to the site that suggests it read "These lists reflect the perceptions of the climate for women in various philosophy departments as judged by a group of leading feminist philosophers [link to advisory board]. Those schools listed as "Perceived to be Strong Departments for Women" are departments that were widely perceived by feminist philosophers to be places where there was no causes for general concern about gender parity..."

"Not all feminist philosophers, nor all "leading" feminist philosopher, agree with this list, indeed, most of us were not involved at all. I myself worry that this list is harmful both to women philosophers and to feminist philosophy more broadly."

I first want to apologize for the implication that this ranking is somehow a reflection of the perceptions of all feminist philosophers. That wasn't my intention, and unless my suggestion can somehow be re-worded to avoid this implication, it wouldn't offer a fix of the rankings: it would just be a replacement of one misinformation with another.

So let me just lay out the thought-process behind the suggestion in hopes that something valuable from it can be salvaged:

It occurred to me that many of our criticisms of the "Climate" section stem from the fact that it just doesn't do what it purports to do. It doesn't give reliable information about what the climates of departments are like for women. But surely, there is *something* that it does do. In particular, it gives a picture of what a certain group of philosophers *believe* about the climate of these departments. And this information in itself could generate the discussion about climate that Prof. Alcoff has noted is so valuable. Since the board who was surveyed was the same as the Feminist Philosophy Advisory Board (and contains a number of prominent feminist philosophers), I was using "feminist philosophers" as a description for the group who was surveyed. But this ridiculously implies that these people somehow speak for all feminist philosophers...which they clearly don't, any more than they speak for all philosophers simpliciter.

Perhaps what I wrote could be tweaked to refer throughout to (something like) "a group of leading philosophers who are concerned about the climate for women in philosophy". It's cumbersome to talk about "a group of blah"...which was what lead me to the unfortunate generalization "feminist philosophers" originally. But maybe someone else is more adept at wording things than me.

Or maybe my suggestion's just a flop!

Rebecca Kukla

Thanks for the correction, Helen. That really jumped out at me in your comment too. I *strongly* identify as a feminist philosopher and as an advocate for women in the discipline, and obviously the guide does not reflect my perceptions. I have really appreciated all of your thoughtful posts, along with your productive openness to criticism.

Shamik Dasgupta

I agree with Helen that the "Climate for Women" page does do *something*, i.e. it gives information about how a certain group of philosophers perceive various departments.[1] This is valuable and interesting information, and will hopefully be the catalyst for much useful discussion and change.

However, once this is all clarified on the website and the disclaimers are clearly stated about what the source of those perceptions are, it would be less clear why anyone would want to use the information when deciding where to go to graduate school. Which is what I took to be the purpose behind the PG site.

Still, I'd welcome the sorts of changes that Helen suggests.


[1] Though on second thoughts we don't yet really know whether it does this, since we haven't yet been told how the evaluations of the 45 people on the panel were turned into lists. For all we've been told so far, the lists on the website could just be the result of one person who cursorily reads the 45 evaluations and then makes a subjective call! I'm of course not implying that that's how it was done, I'm just making the point that we don't yet know how representative the lists are of the 45 evaluations.

Helen Yetter Chappell

Thanks Rebecca. When I read the email pointing out what I was implying, I immediately thought of you--you've been a terrific voice of reason throughout this discussion--and thought "Wow, that was really dumb, Helen."

(Not that your opposition to the guide is what makes it a dumb thing to have implied, it just made the stupidity of the implication all the more salient to me.)

Shamik - I was envisioning altering the stated purpose of the guide. Prof. Alcoff has argued that the guide has been a positive force, since it's generated so much discussion of an important and under-discussed problem. The thought was that maybe we could retain that aspect of the so-called "Climate" guide, while abandoning the over-ambitious claims about its use.

(I, of course, agree with your footnote.)

J. W. Showalter

How about something like this:

"We are a purely self-selected, very probably non-representative group of people interested in which programs are the best for women in a number of vaguely-defined respects. Though our numbers are small, at least one among us has come to a consensus on which programs are relatively good. That consensus may or may not change, and that may or may not be reflected in later versions of this guide. But anyway, for what it's worth, this is pretty well what I or we came up with. Please don't take it too seriously: we didn't actually ask any of the people at many of the schools how they felt. But, if enough people are interested in getting a sense of how I and maybe some other people think about all this, this guide could be a wonderful starting-point to a superb conversation."

anonymous graduate student

Dear Professors Alcoff, Taylor, and Wilkerson:

The sarcastic last comment here does not, in my view, dispense you, the authors of the "climate for women" section, from addressing in detail the several very serious questions and worries that were brought to the table by the previous commenters. I am sure that I am not the only one to find it very troublesome that there is neither any attempt on your part to defend the "climate for women" section its current form - which, as the many thoughtful comments above have shown, would be a difficult feat - nor the slightest admisssion of the insufficiency and indeed indefensibility of the section as it stands at this time.

The only conclusion I (and, I imagine, many others) am able to draw from the exasperating refusal by you, the authors of the "pluralist's guide", to engage even in the most rudimentary way with serious criticism is that despite the title of your "report" you are not in fact guided by the concern that informs the comments in this thread - the climate for women in philosophy - but rather by an undisclosed private agenda that abuses this concern as a cover.

J. W. Showalter

Professors Alcoff, Taylor, Wilkerson and Haslanger,

I concur fully with what anonymous graduate student just said. It shows an astonishing lack of concern for even the most rudimentary and fundamental values of honesty and integrity, never mind social and ethical responsibility, for you to have done nothing to remedy your horribly irresponsible actions after all these facts have come to light.

My tongue-in-cheek comment was not intended to lighten the mood and get you off the hook for what you have done and continue to do.

Please listen to reason and conscience here (I continue to hold out charitable hope that you all have and are moved by both) and do what we all know is the right thing.

Andrew Sepielli

I agree with several others that the climate report should be taken down. And honestly, I'm surprised that it hasn't been -- surprised because taking the report down is really a very modest concession. Taking it down is not admitting that it's worthless, or that all of the criticisms of it are warranted, or that there should never again be a climate report bearing the "Pluralists' Guide" imprimatur. It is simply an acknowledgment that several plausible criticisms have been raised, and if indeed the critics are right, then the report has the potential to be harmful. It strikes me as a mistake to think of taking down the report as something to be done only after extensive fact-finding and deliberation. Rather, it's something to be done while fact-finding and deliberation are happening. Think of the report as (in police department lingo) "on indefinite suspension pending the results of an investigation".

I guess what I'm trying to do is allay concerns on the part of those responsible for the report about the expressive function of taking it down. It's only human not to want to be seen as capitulating, but I don't think people will see it that way, and at any rate, I'd urge people not to see it that way. You can even say on the website that it's being taken down as a precautionary measure, or that it will be reinstated next year with changes in the methodology, or whatever.

In adopting this conciliatory tone, I don't mean to in any way distance myself from the criticisms others have made here and elsewhere. I think almost all of these are spot-on, and have merited far more careful responses than anything we've seen so far. My point is simply that taking down the guide is in no way tantamount to conceding this, so why not adopt the less risky strategy and remove it for the time being?

Sharyn Clough

Hi folks,

I am a tenured woman faculty member in a modest philosophy department (Oregon State University) and I have followed the discussion of Linda, Paul and Bill's Pluralist's Guide with much interest and not a little dismay.

I have great respect for their work and their project-in-progress and I think that any philosopher writing and teaching in Linda, Paul and/or Bill's areas of expertise knows these three colleagues to be honest and principled. However, some of the comments I've read on this blog about the "climate for women" ratings in particular, do not foreground the fact of Linda, Paul, and Bill's honesty and principles, and seem instead to reflect some kind of outrage that they, and/or their advisors could have judged some philosophy departments to be "needing improvement" on the issue of the sexual harassment of women by men.

Who are we kidding? I know of NO philosophy department in either Canada or the US, including any I've been a part of, where there has NOT been a history of heterosexual male professors hitting on and discriminating against women graduate students, women faculty, and/or women staff. Those of us women who are still in philosophy have learned, or are learning, how to negotiate this crap - it seems to be part of the deal.

So one interesting variable we might try to measure is not so much "which departments have a chilly climate and which don't"? but "in which departments are faculty and administrators actively doing their best to fix the omnipresent problem of sexual harassment?"

I am still unsure how best to quantify what one might mean by "actively" or "doing their best", and thus have no advice for our brave trio at The Pluralist's Guide, but I think it is at least important to check some of the anger in some of the comments on this blog - anger it seems that any department could be accused of "needing improvement." Or that being so described might cause some kind of harm. To whom? I can only assume that as more info becomes available the "needs improvement" list will become MUCH longer. And as a result, potential graduate students will be engaging all of us in important discussions about the problem of sexual harassment in academic philosophy, and with more candor than ever before.

I acknowledge that some of the anger in these comments is surely a result of the fact that some departments are being singled out early on in the process of what is likely (I hope) to be an ongoing and refined measuring system (not unlike the refinements made over the years to the Philosopher's Gourmet Report).

But while it's true that some departments have been singled out early on - just wait - they are all in terrible company, and sooner than later it will show.

We are all in terrible company, and it shows.

Sharyn Clough


Dear Sharyn,

The most important objections to the Climate lists have not involved the claim that it is inappropriate to judge departments as needing improvement (as many commenters here and elsewhere have acknowledged, it is unlikely that there exists a department that doesn't fall in this category). They have instead involved the claims that:

1) Publishing a small list of departments needing improvement suggests that they are especially in need of improvement;

2) There is very little evidence that the Guide employed a methodology capable of producing a reliable list of this sort (here the central issues have been a lack of transparency about methodology, and some reasons to believe that there are both false positives and false negatives in the lists published).

3) The conjunction of (1) and (2) means that there is a risk of doing harm to women deciding, on the basis of the lists, where to pursue graduate studies.

You say it is reasonable to believe that there are many other departments that could equally well have appeared on the "Needs Improvement" list. If you mean to include other departments that were surveyed, doesn't this just provide further reason to believe (2) and hence (3)?


Sharyn, I am confused as to how your knowing them to be both personally and professionally honest and principled disallows for the travesty that is the 'Climate for Women'. Are you suggesting they be given some kind of pass?

And you are exactly right about the climate for women in philosophy: most (if not all) departments probably 'need improvement'. Isn't it somewhat curious (one might even say suspicious) then that their methodology has currently yielded one four, wait, no, three departments to be singled out for needing improvement, while it has somewhat miraculously found 19 U.S. programs (almost all of which don't even get surveyed by the PGR) that are STRONGLY recommended for women, meaning entering female graduate students should expect to find "no causes for general concern". If there are 19 U.S. programs like that (out of what, 101? thats almost 20%!) then it would seem that the Pluralist Guide's results contradict what you have said about the state of women in philosophy, right?

occasional lurker

andrew, are you really confused by what Prof. Clough is saying? J. W. Showalter's comments, as highlighted by Leiter, are one of many comments that have assumed bad faith on the part of those responsible for the climate section of the Pluralist's Guide. One of Prof. Clough's points is, I take it, that she knows that the section was offered in good faith and with good intentions. Now, good intentions are not sufficient to produce a good outcome and it seems that the report is deeply flawed. However, as Andrew Sepielli points out, the conversation will be much more productive if all participants assume that others are engaging in this debate in good faith. That kind of interpretive charity makes it much easier for people to acknowledge faults in their work. It also makes it much less likely that critics will frame their comments in personal and insulting ways, which do nothing to advance the interests of women in philosophy.

Michaela M. McSweeney

No one giving a serious criticism of the climate section, here or elsewhere, that I have seen, has attributed bad intentions or bad faith to those responsible for the climate guide. As far as I have seen, almost everyone who has been critical has either been silent on the issue of intention or has assumed good intentions on the part of the organizers and the advisory board. And even if there are people who are assuming bad faith, then, while unfortunate, it seems to me irrelevant to the points made by the critics of the guide, which have still been left largely unanswered. This point has been made at FP (I think by Rebecca Kukla, who has made excellent points here as well as at that blog): Repeating criticism and asking for answers to questions or for actions that seem appropriate as responses to the grave problems raised here and elsewhere, when no one has given such answers/taken the appropriate actions (e.g. taking the climate section down) is not the same thing as attributing bad intentions to the organizers.

I know almost everyone knows this. But why focus on the few comments that might attribute bad intentions to the organizers, when almost no one who has made a serious criticism has done so? It seems to merely serve as a way to try to distract away from the issue at hand, which I would sum up as: the creators of the guide made a serious error in the methodology and publication of the climate guide, one which has the potential to harm, rather than help, those applying to graduate school, and they should take it down.

Rebecca Kukla

Thank you Michaela. It is hard not to feel we are going round and round in circles on this point.

Rebecca Kukla

Here is what I just posted on the FP blog:

All of passionate defending of oregon and cries that people are attributing bad intentions seems to me to STILL miss the point. All of this was supposed to be about the methodology of the climate guide. By Bonnie’s own admission, the makers of the guide and the people who filled out surveys didn’t even know any of this was going on, so had no opportunity to make an informed judgment about how the department was coping with the harassment case, etc. Which means that the methodology of the guide was not well-suited to collecting obviously relevant evidence, and hence that the guide runs a very high risk of false positives and false negatives. If – for purposes of argument – the guide was right about Oregon, it was in some odd Gettier-like sense. Which is why I think the climate guide is untrustworthy and potentially damaging. Which is all I have claimed, from the very start and consistently. I (still) don’t give a crap about anyone’s intentions, or about the strange-sounding internal politics of Oregon (which don’t sound very pleasant for women or anyone else, frankly), or any of this. I dearly wish we could finally just address the methodological issues without getting distracted by personal mishegas and grand political sturm und drang, though I fear I have ample evidence at this point that that is simply not gonna happen.

occasional lurker

I thought it was worth contributing a short comment focusing on the comments attributing bad intentions to the organizers because some of them have been quite high profile and contributed to poisoning the atmosphere, making it more difficult for constructive criticism to be heard. As I said, JW Showalter's uncharitable ridicule was highlighted positively by Prof Leiter and Prof Leiter himself has written over at New APPS that the "real purpose" of the guide was " to smear the top PGR departments and promote SPEP departments and other departments where feminist philosophy is taught, including some that have serious sexual harassment problems." (See http://tiny.cc/blcomment ) Prof Leiter also questioned their professional integrity in comments on his own blog (see http://tiny.cc/blcomment2 ).

So I don't think it's right to say that "no one" has attributed bad intentions or bad faith to the organizers of the guide. I do not think such accusations advance the discussion in a useful way, but neither do I think a whole conversation about tone would be especially helpful either. My intention in rebuking such comments was not to distract from the issue at hand, but to encourage us to focus on exactly those issues and not to get sidetracked by excessively personalizing things. Obviously, people are justifiably frustrated by the silence from Alcoff and others with respect to the many excellent questions that have been raised. My hope is that an environment in which their intentions were not doubted would make it more likely for them to come forward with responses.


"My hope is that an environment in which their intentions were not doubted would make it more likely for them to come forward with responses."

Of course, the longer they their silence lasts, the more grounds there are for doubts about their intentions.

J. W. Showalter

occasional lurker, you call my comment uncharitable.

Please explain.

occasional lurker

@ J. W. Showalter, I was referring to your sarcastic first comment (7/24 at 12:15 AM), which even you recognized as a potential distraction in your second comment. Unfortunately, it your second comment, you also endorsed the intervening anonymous commenter who said the "only conclusion" to draw is that the authors of the Pluralist Guide have an "undisclosed private agenda" -- which is again precisely the kind of uncharitable attribution that I think is unproductive.

For further evidence that the conversation has been sidetracked by personal attacks, look to the discussion on the Feminist Philosophers blog, where comments about this topic have been closed for a second time because, as Anne Jacobson says there, people of good want to acknowledge errors but no longer feel comfortable doing so because they believe it will only intensify the attacks on them.

occasional lurker

sorry, that was meant to be "people of good will" in my paraphrase of Prof. Jacobson.

Fun-nonymous Grad Student

Occasional Lurker,

The discussion on Feminist Philosophers that you refer to is not about this topic, it is about a response by certain members of Oregon's philosophy department. It is understandable that the comments there are closed. The atmosphere was getting tense and it, indeed, would have been difficult for those at Oregon who posted things they may not have meant to acknowledge that without inviting harsh criticism.

This is irrelevant to the discussion here. You paraphrase Prof. Jacobson as "people of good [will] want to acknowledge errors but no longer feel comfortable doing so because they believe it will only intensify the attacks on them.", in response to J.W. Showalter's comments about what sort of disclaimer would be appropriate if the Climate Guide remains up. This is a different topic, and Prof. Jacobson's claims simply do not apply.

The criticism against the guide and against the people responsible for the creation and maintenance of the guide has been so harsh partly because of the fact that none of the organizers are willing to acknowledge their egregious error.

If the organizers of the guide were to seriously address the issues raised repeatedly here and elsewhere, the last thing they should expect would be personal attacks. What has been so frustrating so far is that 2 out of the 3 organizers have been completely silent and the third, while at least willing to speak publicly about the guide, has done little more than sidestep serious questions and fail to discuss the sincere, genuine concerns being raised.

I agree that there has been a rise in discussion about the organizers of the guide (and then counter-attacks against its critics) when the discussion should just be about the guide and what should be done about it. However, the reason for this is clear: The organizers of the guide seem unwilling to talk to the public about it. Indeed, they remain unwilling to even reveal their entire methodology (e.g. - was the alteration of the rankings to eliminate Oklahoma the result of a recount and revote or an executive decision?), let alone seriously discuss criticism of it.

The fact that this debate has turned a smidge personal (though, this does not reflect most of what has been said or is being said) is an unwanted outcome of: (1) That the critics of the PG are not willing to let discussion peter-out so that the climate guide cannot avoid criticism by simply outlasting it, and (2) That the people responsible for the guide (the three organizers) are unwilling to engage in meaningful discussion with its critics.

You seem to be suggesting that (1) is the problem (you make your point by reposting the rationale that lead to closing comments on another board). I think the problem is with (2).

Ingo Brigandt

I am glad that some of the advisory board members convey their views on this matter. (Since Anita Allen's revelation that despite her being listed as an advisory board member she has never agreed to serve on the board and not completed the climate survey, it has been become even harder to guess what impact the advisory board had on survey's methodology and publication.) However, your comments fail to address some of the substantial objections that have been made. You say that

"I can only assume that as more info becomes available the 'needs improvement' list will become MUCH longer."

This sounds good, but apart from the question of why only a handful of departments are currently listed given the serious problems that you and other assessors obviously view to exist in so many departments, unless the survey's methodology has not been make explicit, there is no evidence whatsoever that a future increase in the list is even possible. Despite repeated asking, we still have not been told which departments were surveyed, how many responses were received for individual departments, how the data was translated into recommendations, and what to make of departments that are not listed (reliable information that they are of average status and thus better than the 'need improvement' departments, or not enough information to make any assessment). This is something that ought to be published together with the guide. After the survey's publication, Oklahoma has been removed (without acknowledgement) from the list of departments in need of improvement, which among other things does not support your prediction that in the future the list will increase.

Quite beyond the 'in need of improvement' list, the central objection to the survey is that its method is prone to erroneously listing departments as being women friendly, in fact, that the guide currently recommends a few departments to women even though they appear to have serious problems. You did not address this issue (which is central is it pertains to the largest potential harm to future female grad students). As far as I know, to date none of the authors and advisory board members have even been willing to acknowledge this issue (beyond the vacuous admission that any survey is fallible).

My personal view is that no ethically responsible climate report can be done without consulting female students and faculty within the departments surveyed, and thus that the recommendations in its present form are better taken down. The in my view best option would be to publish any future climate report independently of any area recommendations, since (given the current social turf climate in North-American philosophy) an association with any area guide (be it the PG, be it the PGR) will give some a pretext to discard the climate survey on unrelated grounds.

Ingo Brigandt

My foregoing comment was a reply to Sharyn Clough (July 27, 2011 at 03:36 am). Sorry for not making this explicit above.

J. W. Showalter

It seems to me that the true scandal is being missed here. The scandal is that a department could seriously be cited as being friendly to women on the grounds of its hiring on a(nother) 'feminist philosopher'. Being engaged in 'feminist philosophy' is neither necessary nor sufficient, or even close to either, for being friendly toward the cause of women in philosophy.

Why has this apparently not been noticed?

Anonymous Grad Student

Re: J. W. Showalter, 7/30 @ 3:41 AM

I agree. The climate guide appears to be a guide to the climate for "party-line" feminism (for lack of a better word), rather than the climate for women.

If I'm recalling correctly (I haven't the energy to go back and check), concerns that the methodology employed has resulted in a guide that conflates the presence of feminist philosophy with the climate for women have been raised on the "Philosophy Smoker" and the "Feminist Philosophers" blog.

Anonymous Grad Student

Based on what Prof. Alcoff has written here and on her personal website, I take it she has no intention of listening, much less directly responding, to those who have taken issue with the "climate for women" section of the guide. Alcoff writes:

"We have a political challenge here that needs to be approached politically. What this means is that women need to ... forego their illusions about the absolute rationality and meritocracy of the discipline, give up trying to win over recalcitrant members of the old guard, and instead work on building power bases. We should give up on trying to convince either the methodological center or the right-wing of the discipline." (http://alcoff.com/articles/call-climate-change-women-philosophy).

And perhaps rightly so. The failures of the profession in regard to the treatment of women have been longstanding and severe.

In light of these facts, however, I think it's important to note that the questions and concerns about the climate guide aren't coming merely (or perhaps even primarily) from "business as usual" quarters. What we're seeing here, it seems to me, is not the predicted backlash from a mainstream culture in denial about its very real problems (though naturally, there's been some of that too I'm sure). Rather, what we're seeing are the legitimate concerns of members of a profession in response to a climate guide which suffers from methodological shortcomings so severe as to render it worse than useless to many (if not most) of the people it's intended to serve. The rankings cannot be trusted. Why? Because the informed prejudices of a self-select group do not constitute reliable data, as Rebecca Kukla and others have shown. Not even the advisory board listing can be trusted, having been stacked (apparently) by exploiting the failure to opt out. This is unethical, by any measure. It's simply not acceptable to treat the very real needs of prospective graduate students in such a compromised manner.

Speaking for myself, I take the debate the climate guide has sparked as a positive development. A debate over methods is a big step forward where silence reigned before. That said (and at the risk of restating the obvious), the "climate for women" guide is indefensible as it stands now. Pending significant revision, it needs to come down.

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