Behavior Modification for Philosophy Professors

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While American University may be uninterested in trying to help curb sexual assault on campus, at least some professors are trying to do something about sexual harassment.

According to an article by Scott Jaschik at Inside Higher Ed, it turns out to be something of a problem in college philosophy departments. As he writes:

In a post this week on the blog New APPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science, three philosophers write that “there are many important figures in the profession whom their colleagues and students know to have engaged in various forms of sexual harassment on multiple occasions. Many of us have heard first-hand accounts of harassment from those who have been harassed; almost all of us have heard second-hand accounts from those who know the harassers or the harassed….

The problem is that the important figures are mostly tenured, which means there’s not much institutions can do to address the problem. “Mark N. Lance, a professor of philosophy at Georgetown University… said in an interview that he is advocating the use of shunning.” That’s right, don’t invite them to conferences, don’t talk to them socially, and don’t invite them to faculty parties.

This is a very weak solution. The trouble is that the sexual harassers might still be damn good philosophers. If they’re making important contributions to philosophy, it’s hard to really exclude them effectively. Only the harassed would have any real incentive to avoid such professors.

Or, as Hamilton Nolan writes at Gawker: “Females subject to harassment might also try tossing a drink in the dude’s face, and kicking him in the balls.”

How very Mad Men. Too bad it didn’t really work there either. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer