Ethics Quote Of The Week: Andrew Sullivan

“When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based “social justice” movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large.”

      —-Andrew Sullivan, in a New York Magazine essay titled “We All Live On Campus Now”.

Once again, blogger-turned-essayist Andrew Sullivan arrives at an accurate assessment of an ethics problem in society without being able to avoid his own biases in trying to assess where the problem came from, which would be extremely easy if he were capable of objectivity. I recommend the whole piece, though Sullivan is an infuriating truth-teller and iconoclast trapped inside an angry gay man who can’t muster  the integrity to directly criticize his sexual politics allies.  Incredibly, Sullivan substantially blames Donald Trump for the phenomenon he assails here, which is ahistorical in the extreme, bordering on delusion:

“Polarization has made this worse — because on the left, moderation now seems like a surrender to white nationalism, and because on the right, white identity politics has overwhelmed moderate conservatism. And Trump plays a critical role. His crude, bigoted version of identity politics seems to require an equal and opposite reaction. And I completely understand this impulse. Living in this period is to experience a daily, even hourly, psychological hazing from the bigot-in-chief. And when this white straight man revels in his torment of those unlike him — and does so with utter impunity among his supporters — there’s a huge temptation to respond in kind.”

Good God, Andrew, show some backbone. Trump, as can be documented and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, was the “response in kind” to the identity-based social justice movement that was weaponized and reached the point of madness under the leadership of Barack Obama. Why should anyone listen to you when you equivocate like this and make false excuses for what was spinning out of control before anyone thought Donald Trump had as good a chance of becoming President as Martin O’Malley? The University of Missouri meltdown that triggered an across-the-nation epidemic of identify politics warfare occurred in 2015. You know that, and you still write this fiction? What’s the matter with you? Continue reading

Yale’s Bigoted Dean And Pazuzu

I’m generally a Jonathan Turley fan—for one thing, he makes almost as many typos on his blog as I do— but the George Washington Law School constitutional law professor is the master of equivocation, and this often obscures important facts. Writing about Yale’s  Dean June Chu, recently put on leave by the school  for  online posts showing her to be a racist, a bigot and a hypocrite, he writes that she

“has been a successful academic and administrator at Yale University.  However, that stellar record came to a halt — and Chu was put on leave — after it was discovered that she had written reviews on Yelp deemed offensive.” 

“Deemed offensive” is classic Turley mild-speak, and it misleadingly suggests that the Yale dean has been another victim of campus political correctness because someone “deemed” her words “offensive.” Here is a sample of what she wrote on Yelp in various consumer reviews:

  • In a review of a Japanese steakhouse, Chu wrote, “I guess if you were a white person who has no clue what mochi is, this would be fine for you . . . if you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you!”
  • She  described a theater as having “sketchy crowds (despite it being in new haven)”
  • She said a movie theater  had “barely educated morons trying to manage snack orders for the obese and also try to add $7 plus $7.”
  • Chu said of a fitness employee that “seriously I don’t care if you would ‘lose your job’ (I am sure McDonalds would hire you).”
  • She called another  gym class instructor ” frail and totally out of shape.”

Interestingly and tellingly, these and other nasty posts by Chu were discovered by students after she sent a campus-wide email  in which she proudly announced that she had become “Yelp Elite,” meaning that she had been recognized by Yelp for “well-written reviews, high quality tips, a detailed personal profile, an active voting and complimenting record, and a history of playing well with others.” Some students decided to see what she had written.  That wasn’t an unpredictable response, so Chu obviously didn’t see anything wrong with the attitudes she had projected. Stunned and disillusioned by what they found, the students  circulated some of the most remarkable of her comments. These  sparked anger from Yale students and alumni, who deemed the posts offensive because, Prof Turley, they were offensive. They were arrogant, elitist, classist and racist, reflected poorly on the institution, and  were not the kinds of expression that supported Yale’s trust in her. Continue reading

The Psychiatrists Board The 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck

It’s pretty simple. Professionals must be trusted, and when it becomes clear that members of a profession are allowing themselves to be influenced by emotion and partisan political bias, they cannot be. One of the most troubling results of the mass abandonment of fairness, prudence, proportion, fairness and common sense in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election has been the public meltdown of reserve and restraint by so many professionals, which will have long-term effects on their ability to serve the public in the future.

Journalists, as we have seen and continue to see, have completely abandoned their profession’s duties of competence, objectivity and independence to join the efforts on the Left to undermine President Trump and his administration. Educators and school administrators, whose roles in society should have no political component whatsoever, have done the same. Historians, whose profession requires careful and dispassionate analysis of past events with perspective and objectivity, chose this moment to try to influence history as it was being made, and to push it into directions they prefer as partisans, not professionals. Law professors and lawyers have debased themselves arguing for crackpot theories to justify undoing the election. Judges have embraced the opposite of a judicial process to halt a Presidential order their political allies find offensive: rather than evaluating the limited travel halt based on what it is, they have delayed it based on a presumed motive calculated from past comments made on the campaign trail.

Legal ethicists, as I discussed here,  abandoned legal ethics to make bogus, politically motivated charges against a Trump aide who is not practicing law, and whose conduct in question wouldn’t have breached professional standards if she had been. Last week, scientists demonstrated on the National Mall to argue for policies they say their research demands, though a preference for specific policy applications biases research and makes it untrustworthy. Great: climate scientists want draconian climate change policies? Good to know; now we also know that we can’t be sure their research results aren’t tainted by their bias….though coming up with a predictive climate change model that actually works would be nice. Even the linguists have succumbed to the epidemic.

Now a significant number of psychiatrists have joined their colleagues in other professions by behaving like partisan hacks. Continue reading

Yale’s Core Values Betrayal: The Case Of The Student’s Unnecessarily Provocative Philosophy Essay

It certainly appears as if U.S. higher education is sailing toward the shoals of ethics bankruptcy, full speed ahead. It also appears that Yale, although it’s part of a tightly bunched armada, is leading the way.

A law suit called Doe v. Yale tells a jaw-dropping tale that once would have been unbelievable, “once” meaning “before a large segment of the culture accepted the proposition that free expression and thought were undesirable unless they met certain lockstep requirements that will ease the way to a progressive utopia.” The plaintiff, a male student, claims that Yale punished him for the offense of writing a class essay that offended a female teaching assistant.

According to his lawsuit, in late 2013 a philosophy teaching assistant filed a complaint with the university’s Title IX office, complaining about a short paper “Doe” had written in the class she was helping to teach.  The essay discussed Socrates’ discussion, recounted in Plato’s “Republic,” of the three divisions of the soul and their relationship to justice. It applied the Greek philosopher’s ideas to rape, arguing that the crime was also an irrational act in which  the soul’s appetites and spirited components overwhelm its reason, which must have primacy for mankind to be moral and just.

The Title IX coordinator, an associate dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences named Pamela Schirmeister, told Doe that his essay was “unnecessarily provocative.” By daring to discuss rape, he had committed an offense against the teaching assistant. He was told to have no contact with the teaching assistant, and ordered to attend sensitivity training at the university’s mental-health center—re-education and indoctrination, in other words. “Doe” was now, he was told, a “person of interest” to Yale, meaning that that the college was now going to be watching him with a grounded suspicion that he was a potential danger to the campus.

What followed, a few months later, were two dubious accusations of sexual assault by female students, both handled with the slanted, pro-accuser, due process-avoiding  approach that has become epidemic on campuses since President Obama’s Dept of Education issued its infamous “Dear Colleague” letter in April of 2011.  Ethics Alarms has discussed some of these cases and the letter, but that is not the topic before us today.

Today the topic is the suppression of free speech, thought, and expression on college campuses.  Continue reading

Silence U Part 2: Indoctrination At Yale, and Beyond

A new, intensely short documentary about the cultural rot underway at Yale (but not only at Yale) is worth viewing, if you have a firm grip on your skull. Yale, is, of course, the source of many U.S. leaders and opinion-makers, including Supreme Court justices and recent Presidents. As one can see from the video, it is either indoctrinating the young minds in its charge in oppressive, anti-speech and liberty ideology, or, to give a large benefit of the doubt, failing to disabuse students of toxic and anti-democratic ideas that the educational system has also seeded.

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, Yale is an elite institution, a role model for others, and supposed to represent the best of higher education. Its students will take their place among the intellectual and economic elite. Nobody who has been paying attention to the logical and legal contortions being used by the supporters of “the resistance” should be surprised that our most promising students are being trained to reason like this. The question is: does it make sense for a nation to actively support an educational system that appears to have become dedicated to undermining the basic values its founding was based upon?

The former-Provost of Stanford University, John Etchemendy, recently gave a speech he called “The Threat From Within” in which he said in part.

Over the years, I have watched a growing intolerance at universities in this country – not intolerance along racial or ethnic or gender lines – there, we have made laudable progress. Rather, a kind of intellectual intolerance, a political one-sidedness, that is the antithesis of what universities should stand for. . . . We need to encourage real diversity of thought in the professoriate, and that will be even harder to achieve. It is hard for anyone to acknowledge high-quality work when that work is at odds, perhaps opposed, to one’s own deeply held beliefs. But we all need worthy opponents to challenge us in our search for truth. It is absolutely essential to the quality of our enterprise.

The problem bites when a particular ideological sect gains power, and meticulously and systematically sets out to make diversity of thought inaccessible. Professors and scholars inhospitable to progressive cant are becoming extinct on college campuses, by design, just as they are an endangered species in newsrooms and Hollywood. Over at the increasingly had-left legal website “Above the Law”—you know, the one that kept erasing my e-mail alert requests every time Ethics Alarms criticized the site; the one that employs Ellie Mystal, a black lawyer who has advocated that black jurors refuse to convict black defendants—writer Joe Patrice  mocked the concept of advocacy for “viewpoint diversity” as argued in this letter from a group of law professors: Continue reading

Down The Slippery Slope: Yale Embraces Historical Airbrushing

john-c-calhounFrom The New York Times:

After a swelling tide of protests, the president of Yale announced on Saturday that the university would change the name of a residential college commemorating John C. Calhoun, the 19th-century white supremacist statesman from South Carolina. The college will be renamed for Grace Murray Hopper, a trailblazing computer scientist and Navy rear admiral who received a master’s degree and a doctorate from Yale.

The decision was a stark reversal of the university’s decision last spring to maintain the name despite broad opposition. Though the president, Peter Salovey, said that he was still “concerned about erasing history,” he said that “these are exceptional circumstances.”

“I made this decision because I think it is the right thing to do on principle,” Mr. Salovey said on a conference call with reporters. “John C. Calhoun’s principles, his legacy as an ardent supporter of slavery as a positive good, are at odds with this university.”

And there we go!

How cowardly and equivocating  Salovey is! If he’s concerned about erasing history, and he should be as an educator, then he should have the principles and fortitude not to engage in it. But “these are exceptional circumstances,” he says. This is right out of the Rationalizations list: The Revolutionary’s Excuse: “These are not ordinary times” and The Troublesome Luxury: “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now.”  For good measure, he adds a third rationalization, The Ironic Rationalization, or “It’s The Right Thing To Do.”

Of course it’s not the right thing to do. The right thing to do would be to teach the smug protesting young ignoramuses, who only know that Senator Calhoun was a slavery supporter as if that is the reason he is regarded as one of the great Senators in U.S. history (it’s not), any more than Andrew Jackson is defined solely by “The Trail of Tears,” that history is complex, cultures evolve, leadership is hard and even the most accomplished human beings are flawed gaspachos of greatness and sin. That would be the right thing because Yale is allegedly an institute of higher learning. This is the act of an institute of political correctness, intellectual laziness and stereotyping.

There were other rationalizations embedded in Salovey’s betrayal of history and culture, such as..

1A. Ethics Surrender, or “We can’t stop it.”

Sure you can, if you have any integrity and care about your obligation to educate rather than capitulate.

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

And what cause would that be, sir? Your sophomoric students are demanding that important historical figures be airbrushed out of existence like Soviet Politburo figures out of favor, and Yale’s cause is supposed to be teaching  young minds to be more tolerant of the complexities of the real world. Now Yale’s cause is “Find the path of least resistance, and maybe they’ll calm down!”

15. The Futility Illusion:  “If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”

This is only true if Yale is unable to articulate why it is important not to banish historical figures from the nation’s past as soon as activists get wind of a weakness they can exploit to bring themselves power. Continue reading

It’s Sexual Harassment Day!

biden-harassment

Unfortunately, it will be a while before I get to the next ethics topic. Accompanied by the ProEthics acting troupe, The Ethical Arts Players, I’ll be running not just one but two harassment awareness and avoidance trainings today. Avoiding harassing conduct is only applied ethics after all; it should be easy, but it isn’t.

I’ll be talking about some high profile cases that have been discussed here: the Trump-Billy Bush video, naturally; Ellen Degeneris’s cute sexual harassment of Jake Gyllenhaal on television that nobody complained about because…she’s Ellen! ; and the most relevant of all for the group I’ll be talking to, made up of scientists and academics, this story.

Sexual harassers come in many varieties, and this reminds me that I need to write more about the topic. Here are 15 types that have been identified in the wild so far, but hybrids and mutants are also out there:

  1. The Power Player: A “quid pro quo” harasser: the boss.
  2. The Counselor: Exploiting mentor relationships, abusing tryst
  3. The Leader of the Pack: Leading group embarrassment or marginalization
  4. The Serial Harasser: The Intentional and shameless abuser. With all that has gone on in the law and public eye, they are still out there in force.
  5. The Groper: Hands and Eyes. Yes, that’s Joe Biden…
  6. The Opportunist: Awaiting their chances, and ready to pounce on the trusting, vulnerable and needy
  7. The Bully : Sexual harassment as punishment, manipulation or just for sadistic fun
  8. The Confidante: Building trust to abuse it, that Platonic friend who’s not really platonic.
  9. The Pest: Polite, but not taking “no” for an answer
  10. The Sympathetic Harasser – Exploiting a crisis
  11. The Gallant: Misusing compliment and manners to marginalize, the kind of harassment women often don’t notice. (Barack Obama is one.)
  12. The Nerd: Socially inept individuals who desire the attentions of their targets, and who often don’t see that they do not reciprocate these feelings.
  13. The Stalker: Watching, trailing, bothering, tracking. The most dangerous harasser.
  14. The Blunderer : An accidental or clueless harasser
  15. The Star: The open harasser who’s status prevents him from being called one, or called to account.

 

Proposition: It Is Unethical For Universities To Permit Or Engage In The Political Indoctrination Of Students Without Having Expressly Informed Students Of That Intention Before They Enrolled

brainwashing

As part of the post 2016 Presidential election freak-out, hundreds colleges and universities have crossed all lines of fairness, professionalism and objectivity by making it clear to students who did not find Hillary Clinton’s defeat motivation to consider an overdose of Seconal that they were skunks at the picnic. College deans and presidents sent out campus wide expressions of horror at Trump’s victory, like the Vassar president’s message I noted here. University of Arkansas’ Dean, Michael Schwartz, offered free counseling services to students who were dist ought following the “most upsetting, most painful, most disturbing election season of my lifetime.” The only previous occasion when the school offered counseling was after a student committed suicide.

A Yale professor sent this statement to his students:

yale-professor

Then there are the administrative efforts to make it clear that dissent from the approved, sensitive, politically correct, university-sancioned and of course obviously beyond question or rebuttal position that a group of racist deplorables elected the anti-Christ as POTUS.

At Edgewood College, students had been invited to express their feelings about the election by writing them on post-it-notes and placing them on a designated table. Clearly, it was expected that everyone would express anger, shock, despair or grief, but one such note read “Suck it up, pussies!” This, which I would call a very reasonable, if vulgarly expressed, reaction, was deemed a “hate crime” by college officials, who have asked police to investigate.

College Vice President Tony Chambers sent a letter to campus condemning this “act of cowardly hatred” and “intimidation.” He wrote:

A group of cross-functional college staff representing campus security, student conduct, human resources, Title IX enforcement, and diversity and inclusion measures convened Tuesday morning to discuss how to address the hateful message. This group determined that the message constituted a Hate Crime…

Continue reading

Asian-American Students Take Aim At What’s Unethical About Affirmative Action

Good.

The ethics problem with affirmative action is that its utilitarian trade-off is undeniably unfair and hypocritical. In order to admit African-American students whose test scores and grades would not normally allow them to be admitted to elite institutions, racial preference is used to justify not admitting white students whose credentials would otherwise qualify them for entry. Diversity justifies racial discrimination.

Asian-Americans have long been an embarrassment to this theory. Even though it is another minority group that was the target of institutional and social prejudice in this country, and despite added disadvantages of language and culture, Asian Americans as a group have better test scores and grades than the supposedly privileged whites. Not only does this fact call into question some assumed explanations for the consistently lagging performance of African-Americans, it also threatens diversity policies by raising the possibility of a student body disproportionately Asian American, with whites students being squeezed out at one end by  superior Asian-Americans  and on the other by Affirmative Action-assisted blacks.

How have universities avoided this problem thus far? They have avoided it by applying quotas to both Asian-Americans and African-Americans. The problem is that the quotas on Asian Americans limit their numbers, regardless of their qualifications. Continue reading

The Unethical Ethicist And Yale: If Bill Cosby Were A Famous Ethicist, He’d Be Prof. Thomas Pogge

The Accuser and the Ethicist

The Accuser and the Ethicist

Here is the short version:

Yale’s Thomas Pogge is a world famous Yale professor of philosophy and ethics who is especially renowned for condemning the terrible human rights effects caused by disparity of resources between rich countries and poor ones. His books, lectures and a well-recieved TED talk argue that the power imbalance between rich countries and poor countries is so great that poor countries cannot reasonably be said to “consent” to agreements between them. Pogge has also accumulated many credible accusations of exploiting, harassing, and taking sexual liberties with his female students in multiple institutions. In the case that has led to this contrast becoming public, Yale offered a female accuser, a Yale graduate named Fernanda Lopez Aguilar, $2000 in exchange for ending the matter and keeping the story out of the news media.

The long version is here. Because the publisher is BuzzFeed, which is not widely regarded as a sterling source of trustworthy journalism (to say the least), the detailed and apparently well-researched report will be easy for Pogge and Yale to ignore and shrug off. However, other publications, including the Yale Daily News, have investigated the work of author Kaitie J.M. Baker, and so far it has held up to scrutiny.

Pogge has responded, less than convincingly, I would say, to the Lopez Aguilar allegations here. I say unconvincingly because he does not address the previous accusations made against him at Columbia University, and if there is one common characteristic of sexual harassers and abusers that stands out above all others, it is that they are habitual and repeat offenders. Anyone who has spent any time in academia (like me) is well aware that the culture permitting professors, especially male professors, to use the student body and bodies as a sexual perk of the job is widespread and only weakly restrained, if at all. Does that prove that Pogge is one of the professors who partakes in the lusty opportunities presented to him as an object of trust and admiration? No. There is, however a lot of smoke surrounding him, and the smoke has been issuing for a long time.

Yale’s institutional conduct is more than smoke. Yale appears to be another example of a trusted institution deciding that it is preferable to cover up the possible, likely or proven misconduct of a valuable employee than to risk damaging the reputation of that institution, or alienating the loyalties of other employees, by addressing it openly and decisively. I’m sure you can name other infamous examples of this phenomenon, broadly covered by the rationalizations “The King’s Pass” and “The Saint’s Excuse” on the Rationalizations List. Among the most infamous of these are the Catholic Church’s decades, perhaps centuries-long enabling of child sexual predators in the priesthood, the Watergate cover-up by the White House, and Penn State’s failure to stop a known child predator from using the school’s football program and its campus as a base of operations. Yale’s particular variety of this unethical choice is an especially unsavory one, closer to the Joe Paterno/ Sandusky and “Spotlight”scandals, because it intentionally  places future innocent victims at risk of harm.

I accept that there is a possibility that Pogee is an impeccable  professional and as pure as the driven snow, and thus himself a victim of a smear, though this seems unlikely. What I am more interested in now is to address the questions asked in the BuzzFeed piece, which relate to how we should regard unethical ethicists as well as other prominent figures who defy, in their actions, the wisdom they are celebrated for dispensing to others—the Bill Cosbys of the world.

I have some additional questions of my own, but for now I will restrict myself now to those posed in the article. Continue reading