- Last 7 days
By exam-ining how movement toward equality has actually been produced, wecan learn precious lessons for our future and better understand thestruggles and mobilizations that have made this movement possible,as well as the institutional structures and legal, social, fiscal, educa-tional, and electoral systems that have allowed equality to become alasting reality.
Understanding the history of inequality and how changes in institutional structures in legal, social, fiscal educational, and electoral systems have encouraged change toward equality, we might continue to change and modify these to ensure even greater equality.
- Apr 2022
Even as he was critical of overabundance, Gesner exulted in it, seeking exhaustiveness in his accumulation of both themes and works from which others could choose according to their judgment and interests.
Note here the presumed freedom to pick and choose based on interest and judgement. Who's judgement really? Book banning and religious battles would call to question which people got to exercise their own judgement.
- Mar 2022
Refinement is a social process
The idea that refinement is a social process is a powerful one, but it is limited by the society's power structures, scale, and access to the original material and least powerful person's ability to help refine it.
- Feb 2022
First, consider who gets to make the rules. Tenured scholars who, as we’ve noted, are mostly white and male, largely make the rules that determine who else can join the tenured ranks. This involves what sociologists call “boundary work,” or the practice of a group setting rules to determine who is good enough to join. And as such, many of the rules established around tenure over the years work really well for white scholars, but don’t adequately capture the contributions of scholars of color.
Boundary work is the practice of a group that sets the rules to determine who is and isn't good enough to join the group.
Link to Groucho Marx quote, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."
- Nov 2021
Once it was not just okay but admirable that Chua and Rubenfeld had law-school students over to their house for gatherings. That moment has passed. So, too, has the time when a student could discuss her personal problems with her professor, or when an employee could gossip with his employer. Conversations between people who have different statuses—employer-employee, professor-student—can now focus only on professional matters, or strictly neutral topics. Anything sexual, even in an academic context—for example, a conversation about the laws of rape—is now risky.
Is it simply the stratification of power and roles that is causing these problems? Is it that some of this has changed and that communication between people of different power levels is the difficulty in these cases?
I have noticed a movement in pedagogy spaces that puts the teacher as a participant rather than as a leader thus erasing the power structures that previously existed. This exists within Cathy Davidson's The New Education where teachers indicate that they're learning as much as their students.
Kipnis, who was accused of sexual misconduct because she wrote about sexual harassment, was not initially allowed to know who her accusers were either, nor would anyone explain the rules governing her case. Nor, for that matter, were the rules clear to the people applying them, because, as she wrote in Unwanted Advances, “there’s no established or nationally uniform set of procedures.” On top of all that, Kipnis was supposed to keep the whole thing confidential: “I’d been plunged into an underground world of secret tribunals and capricious, medieval rules, and I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about it,’’ she wrote. This chimes with the story of another academic, who told me that his university “never even talked to me before it decided to actually punish me. They read the reports from the investigators, but they never brought me in a room, they never called me on the phone, so that I could say anything about my side of the story. And they openly told me that I was being punished based on allegations. Just because they didn’t find evidence of it, they told me, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”
While the accusers should definitely be believed and given a space to be heard and prosecute their cases, one of the most drastic harms I see here and repeated frequently are Universities sitting as judges and juries for harms that should be tried in the courts.
These cases have been removed entirely from the public social justice system and are tried in a space that is horribly ill-equipped to handle them. This results in tremendous potential for miscarriage of justice.
If universities are going to engage in these sorts of practices, they should at least endeavor to allow all parties to present their sides and provide some sort of restorative justice.
Somewhere I've read and linked to (Reddit?) communities practicing restorative justice in doing these practices. As I recall, it took a lot of work and effort to sort them out, but it also pointed to stronger and healthier communities over time. Why aren't colleges and universities looking into and practicing this if they're going to be wielding institutional power over individuals? Moving the case from one space to the next is simply passing the buck.
Nobody is perfect; nobody is pure; and once people set out to interpret ambiguous incidents in a particular way, it’s not hard to find new evidence.
Wouldn't it be better for us to focus our efforts and energies on people who are doing bigger mass scale harms on society?
Surely the ability to protect some of these small harms undergird ability to build up protection for much larger harms.
Why are we prosecuting these smaller harms rather than the larger (especially financial and) institutional harms?
It is easier to focus on the small and specific rather than broad and unspecific. (Is there a name for this as a cognitive bias? There should be, if not. Perhaps related to the base rate fallacy or base rate neglect (a form of extension neglect), which is "the tendency to ignore general information and focus on information only pertaining to the specific case, even when the general information is more important." (via Wikipedia)
Could the Jesuits' descent into the particular as a method help out here?
One of the people I spoke with was asked to apologize for an offense that broke no existing rules. “I said, ‘What am I apologizing for?’ And they said, ‘Well, their feelings were hurt.’ So I crafted my apology around that: ‘If I did say something that upset you, I didn’t anticipate that would happen.’ ” The apology was initially accepted, but his problems didn’t end.
Even in cases where one apologizes for offences which don't break existing rules and the apology is accepted by the transgressed, the social ostracism doesn't end. This is a part of the indeterminate length of the social sentences that transgressors suffer.
What exactly are these unwritten rules? In some cases they may be examples of institutional power wielding influence in cases where people aren't giving the full benefit of humanity and consideration to others. Some may call some of these instances microaggressions or social constructs similar to them.
All of them, sinners or saints, have been handed drastic, life-altering, indefinite punishments, often without the ability to make a case in their own favor. This—the convicting and sentencing without due process, or mercy—should profoundly bother Americans.
There is a growing number of cases in which people are having their lives being completely upended because they are being deprived of due process.
In some cases, it may actually be beneficial as people may have been abusing their positions of privilege and the traditional system wouldn't have prosecuted or penalized them at all. In these cases the dismantling of institutional power is good. However, how many of them aren't related to this? How many are being decimated without serving this function?
There is a reason that Laura Kipnis, an academic at Northwestern, required an entire book, Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus, to recount the repercussions, including to herself, of two allegations of sexual harassment against one man at her university; after she referred to the case in an article about “sexual paranoia,” students demanded that the university investigate her, too. A full explanation of the personal, professional, and political nuances in both cases needed a lot of space.
Definitely unfortunate for Laura Kipnis (to me on the surface), but are these growing cases helping to deconstruct some of the unfair power structures which we've institutionalized over time? Dismantling them is certainly worthwhile, but the question is are the correct institutions and people paying the price and doing the work? In Kipnis's case, she probably isn't the right person to be paying the price, but rather the institution itself.
Another example of this is that of Donald McNeil in the paragraph above (in the related article).
- descending into the particular
- The New Education
- Laura Kipnis
- restorative justice
- due process
- unwritten rules
- power dynamics
- Cathy N. Davidson
- purity tests
- sentencing guidelines
- institutional power
- institutional racism
- cancel culture
- university justice
- beyond the pale