June 4, 2013

More shaming of the "fat-shaming" professor Geoffrey Miller.

We're already talking about him in this 8 am post. But I'll start a new one for this Inside Higher Education piece (pointed out by TaxProf).

One way to respond is humor:
A new blog was launched Monday in response to the furor. The blog is called Fuck Yeah! Fat Ph.D.s and features those proud of being "fatlicious in academia."
Or you can be super-solemn. This is University of New Mexico psychology chair, Jane Ellen Smith:



According to Smith, Miller claimed his tweets were part of a research project:
"We are looking into the validity of this assertion, and will take appropriate measures. As members of the UNM community, we are all responsible for demonstrating good judgment when exercising our academic freedoms regardless of the format”....

On Twitter, Atlantic correspondent and physician Ford Vox called the validity of Miller’s apology into question, given an essay the professor wrote about Chinese eugenics....

Miller’s essay was published in Edge this year followed up by an interview with Vice, in which he argued that the Chinese government has a long history of eugenics, and he suggested that Western countries should be making greater efforts to pursue genetic research.
There are a bunch of issues colliding here: 1. Saying flippant things about the fat and hurting feelings,  2. Making students worry that they might be discriminated against, 3. The need to prevent actual discrimination against students based on their physical characteristics, 4. Holding professors responsible for things they say in social media, 5. The professor's academic freedom, 6. The taboo against talking about eugenics, 7. What we might want to say and study about eugenics if it weren't taboo.

93 comments:

Nonapod said...

That's a pretty cool idea, insulting people and declaring it's all part of a research problem. That way you could be a complete asshole all the time.

Broomhandle said...

And 8. Who gives a shit about self-obsessed academics?

Chip Ahoy said...

8.) Professors saying randomly true things about obesity and self-control.

damikesc said...

So, a professor can say anything and claim it was part of a research project?

And they wonder why academia is held in such low regard...

Strelnikov said...

Why do these academics all look so fucking weird?

Strelnikov said...

"That way you could be a complete asshole all the time."

It would be nice to have an excuse.

Palladian said...

I've always suspected that this blog is some weird-ass research project.

Lem said...

Are lists that add up to 10 super-solemn or fatilicious?

Chip S. said...

Apparently bulimics have no problem getting their PhDs, or even becoming dept chairs.

Brian said...

Interestingly, if you click through to "Fuck Yeah! Fat PhDs", less than half of the posts show people who actually have completed PhDs. In the other half are lots of MAs and JDs and EdDs and more than a few "candidates". None of these people can be a data point counted against Miller's claim, which is about *finishing a dissertation*, not advancing to candidacy or fulfilling the lesser requirements of some lower degree type.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

The need to prevent actual discrimination against students based on their physical characteristics,...

In what way is that a need?

MadisonMan said...

Interestingly, if you click through to "Fuck Yeah! Fat PhDs", less than half of the posts show people who actually have completed PhDs. In the other half are lots of MAs and JDs and EdDs and more than a few "candidates". None of these people can be a data point counted against Miller's claim, which is about *finishing a dissertation*, not advancing to candidacy or fulfilling the lesser requirements of some lower degree type.

And they are all women. (At least on Page 1 -- why click through?)

And for the fat women who are PhDs: there is no evidence that they were fat when they finished their PhD. How do we know that they didn't pack on the pounds post dissertation?

It seems to me that that tumblr page is just all about fat women who don't care that they are fat.

Lem said...

I'm wondering if more interest could be transplanted away from stories like this - the shaming of a professor - to the IRS scandal. By simply telling people that the IRS wanted to know how many fat members the tea parties had.

Whether that's true or not is irrelevant... as clearly exposed by the offending professor and his tweets pointing to the idea that fatness might/is have something to do with an out of control appetite.

I mean, it looks like the shaming of the IRS is not happening by the usual relied upon methods of pointing out something that they did wrong.

Why does this comment feel like its going nowhere?

Iconochasm said...

The need to prevent actual discrimination against students based on their physical characteristics,...

In what way is that a need?


Because it's irrelevant to what they're purportedly being judged on. If you want to run a Ph.D./beauty pageant, go for it, but don't lie and say you're only looking at scholarly merit.

Chip S. said...

Is it standard procedure for applicants to grad school to provide their height and weight, or a photo?

Snark said...

The biggest problem with the whole original comment it's just dumb. Ignorant. The sort of willpower one has to apply to accomplishing a task of long focus and hard work is entirely separate from managing the hard wired and deeply grooved impulses that govern addictive processes that can lead to long struggles with obesity despite any superficial similarities. Who can have faith in an academic who combines a lack of direct experience with a lack of information and comes up with such pithy 'wisdom'. It's more to do with being such an obvious ass when you rely on some degree of trust in your ability to be an authoritative source of truthful and thoughtful information as it is about 'fat acceptance'. Jeez.

Chip S. said...

Iconochasm, you missed Iggy's point.

If some schools are truly discriminating invalidly, then some other school can admit a disproportionate number of fatties and turn out a better class of PhDs than it could've o/w.

No need for anyone but savvy competitors to concern themselves with it.

Bob Ellison said...

I like the idea that tweeting stupidity is a research design! That seems like the design of all of twitter.com!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Iconochasm said...

...but don't lie and say you're only looking at scholarly merit.

Did they say somewhere that they were only looking at scholarly merit?

Ann Althouse said...

"Are lists that add up to 10 super-solemn or fatilicious?"

My list was on a diet.

bagoh20 said...

You're missing another issue: that of the wisdom of a business insulting it's customers, and making them feel unwelcome, especially a huge and growing demographic.

Of course academics understand business like a fish does a bicycle, but fish don't depend on the principles of the bicycle for their survival, and if they did, they'd probably be smart enough to realize it.

Jupiter said...

The tweet actually belittles people who lack the willpower to finish a doctoral program. Question - is it legitimate for universities to discriminate against those who are unable or unwilling to meet the requirements of a doctoral program?

bagoh20 said...

A business should be free to discriminate at its peril. Truly a dumb strategy in modern times with communications where they are.

Lem said...

My list was on a diet.

lol.

Synova said...

OMG, that's my school.

(Not that I get anywhere near the Psychology department...)

Bob Ellison said...

What's with Jane Ellen Smith's hair?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Chip S. said...

Iconochasm, you missed Iggy's point.

Chip-

You make a good point, but that was not my point. My point was, why should they not look at physical characteristics, if those characteristics are the result of personal choices that could correlate with success in the program?

Why not consider weight, or other measures of fitness, or tattoos, or piercings, etc.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

bagoh20 said...

...especially a huge and growing demographic

lol

Chip S. said...

It sucks to misrepresent someone's point when telling someone else he missed the point.

rhhardin said...

575. When I sat down on this chair, of course I believed it would bear me. I had no thought of its possibly collapsing.

Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Bob Ellison said...

You missed 8. People in academics are idiots.

Lem said...

What's with Jane Ellen Smith's hair?

She is preserving its natural oils.

Paddy O said...

"If you want to run a Ph.D./beauty pageant, go for it,"

I did well on my dissertation, but what pushed me up to "Pass With Distinction" was the swimsuit competition.

My tap-dancing routine in the talent competition was almost my undoing.

bagoh20 said...

You mean that all that undergrad selection, and work, and grading can't weed out people unfit to be postgrad successes. I thought all that was required was a fear of paying work combined with a willingness to pay for the privilege of working.

Bob Ellison said...

"Well, we're first going to find out what happened?"

--Professor Jane Ellen Smith

Palladian said...

575. When I sat down on this chair, of course I believed it would bear me. I had no thought of its possibly collapsing.

Uncertainty of whether a chair would bear him would have broadened Wittgenstein. Or, a broadened Wittgenstein may not have been borne by his chair.

Hagar said...

The bounds of academic freedom will be determined by the Faculty Senate on a case by case basis.

Palladian said...

As a psychology professor, I'm surprised that Miller isn't aware of the theory that ideas of "self-control" is a central causative mechanism behind many eating disorders.

Actually, I'm not surprised. Psychology has become an academic field for those without the willpower to become MDs.

Palladian said...

My point was, why should they not look at physical characteristics, if those characteristics are the result of personal choices that could correlate with success in the program?

Why not consider weight, or other measures of fitness, or tattoos, or piercings, etc.


Because it's stupid.

rhhardin said...

Professors ought to profess, not tweet.

This calls for another social medium, with a lower character limit.

Synova said...

What I find remarkable on campus is how many of the undergraduates are shorter than I am (I'm only 5'1") because in the mid-west almost no one is shorter than me. (Apparently Hispanics here have a "short gene".) And it's also remarkable how many undergraduate girls (you know... 20 year olds) are heavier than I am. I'm pretty overweight, though I'm working on it.

I want to shake them sometimes and just say, girlfriend, do you have any idea how hard it's going to be to lose that weight? And if you're any sort of normal, you're going to keep on putting on another pound a year, because that's what female hormones do to you. Can you imagine what you're going to look like at 50? Nothing will fit, your knees and your feet will hurt all the time. "Waddling" is no way to go through life.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Palladian said...

Because it's stupid.

1) Since when has that been a reason to not do something?

2) Could you send me a link to the study that shows that such a correlation does not exist? ( and please, no links to studies done by fatties. )

Strelnikov said...

"What's with Jane Ellen Smith's hair?"

Anorexia.

Bob_R said...

Jane Ellen Smith has every reason to be solemn. Psychology as a science is very much on trail these days (cf. e.g. the DSM). Yes, there are people doing real science in the field. But it is very easy to get the impression that the subject is dominated by people wrapping their prejudices in a cloak of pseudoscience.

Does Miller (or Chip) claim there are studies correlating obesity and success in scientific research? Has he taken the average body mass index in the local math, computer science, and physics departments?

Bob_R said...

"trail" = "trial." I can't spell, type, or stay on a diet. Somehow I managed to get a Ph.D. in math.

Methadras said...

So BBPhD's?

Methadras said...

Strelnikov said...

Why do these academics all look so fucking weird?


They hate daylight.

Paddy O said...

"I thought all that was required was a fear of paying work combined with a willingness to pay for the privilege of working."

Don't forget about wanting summers off and getting to wear those great robes and hat a few times a year.

bpm4532 said...

Sounds like this prof needs supervision.

BarrySanders20 said...

Ya, looks like she's had a touch of the eating disorder. It's why she is drawn to it to study. She knows the crazy. Probably OCD as well.

There's my ignorant DSM diagnosis for the day.

Can't explain the Feldmanesque eyes/skull.

madAsHell said...

It's a dessertation!!

edutcher said...

Tell 'em all to go take a flying leap for themselves if they don't like it.

dreams said...

Eventually the only people professors will be allowed to make fun of are conservatives.

dreams said...

I see so many young overweight/fat women today and I think to myself that when I was young most of them would have been slim pretty women.

Rabel said...

Presented without comment.

Lem said...

Oh my God that's not how you eat it!

lol.

ricpic said...

#5 (academic freedom) trumps #1 through #7 in a world with its head on straight. Well, actually academic freedom makes all of the you can't say that because it stubs someone's toe...academic.

Synova said...

"I see so many young overweight/fat women today and I think to myself that when I was young most of them would have been slim pretty women."

True. We only thought we were fat.

You know though... I don't think we were more active, and I don't think we ate super healthy or anything.

Fernandinande said...

I bet these people secretly hope that the informal NKVD they participate in were codified and expanded.

"7. What we might want to say and study about eugenics if it weren't taboo."

That effectively everyone practices it when they select a mate - "assortative mating" - or abort a fetus with a genetic disease.

Lem said...

My list was on a diet.

I just noticed Chip Ahoy trying to feed it.

What a guy.

Simon Kenton said...

Dr. Smith appears to have a hypertrophic sternocleidomastoideus. Not that I'm being invidious here. Far from it. Why, some of my best friends have hypertrophic sternoclei....

Sorun said...

Is eugenics really so bad? I want my descendants in 1000 years to be as fit as possible, and every human on the planet in 1000 years will my direct descendant. Don't believe me? Consider this and add the ease of intercontinental travel we now have.

dreams said...

When I was young growing up in the country most of us would maybe get to have a coke on the weekend and most families didn't have bags of potato chips and other snack foods in the house. Plus, there weren't a lot of fast food restaurants though I know I ate too much sugar and our daily diet wasn't what is recommended today.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Sorun said...

Is eugenics really so bad? I want my descendants in 1000 years to be as fit as possible, and every human on the planet in 1000 years will my direct descendant

If we allowed eugenics, are you sure any of your descendants would make the cut?

Anthony said...

Wait everyone from the First Lady on down keeps telling us how unhealthy and horrible it us to be fat so who cares if fat people feel bad about being fat?

Anthony said...

Wait everyone from the First Lady on down keeps telling us how unhealthy and horrible it us to be fat so who cares if fat people feel bad about being fat?

Sorun said...

"If we allowed eugenics, are you sure any of your descendants would make the cut?"

Yes, I have really nice hair.

David said...

Just don't sit next to me on the damn airplane.

Please.

n.n said...

Wasn't there a similar tweet from The White House, which originated in the office of the president's wife?

Crunchy Frog said...

My tap-dancing routine in the talent competition was almost my undoing.

That's because it was supposed to be a lap-dancing routine, silly. You didn't read the instructions clearly enough.

viator said...

OK to come down on people like a ton of bricks for the health risks of tobacco, alcohol, sugar, salt, meat, GMOs, freon, CO2, chocolate, hydrocarbons, guns, soda, junk food, sunshine, ozone, and a wide variety of chemicals?

Shouldn't there be equal protection regarding health risks? For instance:

Obesity and high blood pressure
Obesity and diabetes
Obesity and heart disease
Obesity and cancer
Obesity and cholesterol
Obesity and skin infections
Obesity and macular degeneration
Obesity and ulcers
Obesity and back and foot problems
Obesity and gallstones

There is no freedom to choose unhealthy living with national health care.

Paddy O said...

"That's because it was supposed to be a lap-dancing routine, silly. You didn't read the instructions clearly enough."

That's probably true. Likely also explains why I got such low points for my dancing mole, even after spending months teaching it to samba.

I've never been good about reading details.

Crunchy Frog said...

Did you at least keep track of its ovulatory cycle? That's very important, you know.

wildswan said...

A couple of people have asked if there are studies correlating fat and IQ. Yes there is one. Stephanie vonHinke Kessler Scholder read a paper at the University of Colorado conference on Integrating Genetics and Social Science in 2010 "results indicate that leaner children perform slightly better in
school tests compared to their more adipose counterparts, but the findings show no evidence
that fat mass affects academic outcomes." So there.

But when you look at the other papers onsite you wonder have valid Stephanie vonHinke Kessler Scholder's research really is.
1. Amanda Keller
The Source of Donations to Political and Charitable Groups
These results would allow us to claim that our genes made us do it when the IRS investigated.

2.Pete Hatemi
Genome-Wide Association Liberalism and Conservativism
These results would enable the IRS to just have conservatives aborted before birth instead of formboarding them to death afterward. (Formboarding - endless requests from the IRS to conservatives to fill out more and more forms in which the print gets tinier and tinier while the penalties get larger and larger.)

These IGSS conferences are a part of the new eugenics, biodemography, and I hope the Althouse commenters are too sophisticated to use evidence from the old eugenics, like the rubbish in The Bell Curve, so Nineties. You can check out the new stuff at the IGSS site
http://www.colorado.edu/ibs/CUPC/conferences/IGSS_2010/papers.html

Palladian said...

I'm smarter than most of you, and I'm fat.

Baron Zemo said...

The very last group of people that anyone should listen to is college professors. Those that can not do....teach.

They are in the main credentialed elitists and not in touch with the real world. You are much better off taking the advice of garbage men or deli clerks.

I would say to this gentleman......fuck you douchenozzle and throw another burger on the grill... and open up another frosty.

Rusty said...

Palladian said...
I'm smarter than most of you, and I'm fat.

You beat me to it.

I'm not devastated.

traditionalguy said...

Fat Freedom! Next thing the Fatties will want fat is marriages.

Rush Limbaugh is for it. He also wants to see the two paid fares rule from bigoted airlines outlawed. Fat Freedom!

Paddy O said...

"Those that can not do....teach."

And those that can't teach become school administrators or sell clothing. Or, heaven forbid, write. Those are the worst.

I've done all those except work as a school administrator. That's why I never listen to myself. If I ever become a school administrator I'll know to do the exact opposite of anything I think to do. At that point, it'll be a Catch 22 situation.

Spot on about the deli clerks and garbage men. I was a mailman for a few summers. I got a lot right then.

Carol said...

It would be hard to sit and do all the reading and writing you need to do for a dissertation without getting heavier. Especially without cigs as a crutch - the dirty little secret of prior generations of academics.

Even mere law students tend to put on weight and get that pale puffy look after a couple of years. Then, practice..if they're lucky.

wildswan said...

Anyone could discuss eugenics if they discussed the new eugenics, biodemography, because no one knows what it is and there is no built up set of responses. But Mr. Get-the-Fat is talking old eugenics. He is saying discriminate against group X, in his case, the fat. Everyone knows how that turns out so there isn't much to say. But here's an case from the new eugenics. Suppose they had to ration health care and so they used criteria to select who got certain kinds of treatment. And they said "it won't be racial or wealth discrimination; it will be race-free, wealth free criteria. If for example five women of the same age, 65, needed hip implants and there was money only for three then isn't it good sense to give it to the ones that will likely live longest?" But you see that criterion actually favors certain racial groups over others because certain racial groups are now living longer. And in fact it sets in stone that certain groups go on living longer because then those groups get better medical treatment as they get older so they live longer etc. This is the new eugenics, the new method of selection and anyone could talk about it. What does it mean when one group keeps its grandmothers longer and another loses them early? Does it matter?

dbp said...

"My point was, why should they not look at physical characteristics, if those characteristics are the result of personal choices that could correlate with success in the program?"

I think it is safe to say that anyone who goes to the trouble of entering a PhD program is motivated to eventually graduate.

Not all fat people care (or care enough) to become non-fat. I'm sure a fair number are perfectly happy just as they are, so their fatness is no measure of their willpower or dedication.

I would bet that if some plutocrat offered a large group of fat people a million dollars each if they lost 50 lbs in one year, almost all of them would collect the money.

Chip S. said...

I think it is safe to say that anyone who goes to the trouble of entering a PhD program is motivated to eventually graduate.

A study of 29 major graduate programs in the US and Canada over the period 1992-2004 found that 55% of women and 58% of men completed their PhDs w/in 10 years of their starting dates.

International students' completion rate was 67%, vs. 54% for domestic students.

Paddy O said...

At the same time, some of the most brilliant tenured professors I've known have been quite overweight.

And they're often quite prolific writers too.

Palladian said...

The very last group of people that anyone should listen to is college professors. Those that can not do....teach.

I'm a college professor, bitch. I can do, and do well, and I like nothing more than ideas and a good cheeseburger. So there!

Palladian said...

I'm not devastated.

Pork up.

Guess what? About 60% of the human brain is composed of ... fats.

Suck it, bitches!

bagoh20 said...

You guys make post-graduate study sound even worse that I thought it was. Why the hell would you do that to yourselves.

I worked my ass off for ten year, stayed poor, got fat and pasty, lived on pizza and porn, and all I got was this parchment, and a huge bill.

There is something else to it, right? You must get free candy cigarettes for life, or lots of hot chicks that refill your pipe, and rub your beard or something don't you? Please tell me there's something more.

Palladian said...

Please tell me there's something more.

Homelessness! Financial ruin! What's not to like?

Paddy O said...

"Please tell me there's something more."

I get big discounts at all the on campus dining facilities.

And use of the university gym and pool free of charge. Which is a great place to clean up and take my once a week shower.

Rusty said...

Palladian said...
I'm not devastated.

Pork up.

I've been trying to pork down.
It ain't easy.

Rusty said...

Palladian said...
Please tell me there's something more.

Homelessness! Financial ruin! What's not to like?

So what I'm hearing is I shouldn't encourage my daughter to pursue a degree in fine arts?

Anthony said...

I stayed in great shape during my graduate studies. Of course, working full time for most of the dissertation process helped. As did a love for working out anyway, helped along quite admirably by an athletic facility at the university chock full o' hot young coeds to keep me honest.

dbp said...

"A study of 29 major graduate programs in the US and Canada over the period 1992-2004 found that 55% of women and 58% of men completed their PhDs w/in 10 years of their starting dates.

International students' completion rate was 67%, vs. 54% for domestic students."

Thanks Chip S.

These rates are substantially higher than success rates at weight loss. This could lead to one or another conclusion: It is harder to loose weight than to earn a PhD or people in doctorate programs are more strongly motivated to complete their degree than the average fat person is to loose weight.