August 5, 2013

"The student was McGinn’s paid research assistant on a project relating to the evolution of the human hand."

"McGinn, who is 63, admits to engaging in sexual banter with his assistant. He notes, however, that the subject of his study, the human hand, tempted such banter.... McGinn describes his relationship with the student as an 'intellectual romance.' But the student says she received an email from him saying that the two should have sex in his office during the summer when no one else is around. McGinn denies sending such an email. However, he admits sending an email that said 'had a hand job imagining you giving me a hand job.'"

That's Paul Mirengoff writing about the case of the philosophprof Colin McGinn, whom we were talking about the other day here. Mirengoff links to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that says:
While he resigned of his own accord, he says that he “couldn’t win,” because Donna E. Shalala, the university’s president, was determined to drive him out.
I remember when Donna Shalala stood by men accused of sexual harassment:
The highest profile members of the administration, no doubt, will also be sorting out their feelings. In January [1998], Clinton assured his Cabinet he was innocent, and Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state, stepped out onto the White House driveway to back him up.

"I believe the allegations are completely untrue," she said.

"I'll second that. Definitely," said William Daley, the commerce secretary.

"Third it," said Donna Shalala, the secretary of health and human services.
Third it. Ha. That's a lot to live down.

As for McGinn and "hand job." Should we empathize with a brilliant writer's impulse to riff amusingly with images and puns? The need for the inclusion of women in all of the academic fields trumps male complacency about sexual banter. I can't imagine wanting to use a student as a sounding board for anything that could be misconstrued as a sexual advance (unless one really were moving in on this student). McGinn openly attests to his high opinion of his own intelligence, but how can you not see all that risk? I've got to hypothesize that the risk was titillating and he chose to take it. I suspect the presence of Shalala as the authority figure in his territory only made the risk hotter.

26 comments:

West Texas Intermediate Crude said...

Anyone foolish enough to put a reference to "hand job" in an email is too foolish to be holding any job more responsible than busing tables- I would not trust him with food before it was served to the customer.
Good riddance.

Matthew Sablan said...

Let's index this under 'saying stupid things,' and hopefully he'll get the point. It might give McGinn a hand understanding why this was a bad idea.

In the future, he may want to nail down the limits of his intellectual romances.

aronamos said...

The usual suspects will be here soon, and propound that this man was obviously entrapped by the woman's guile, and he's lucky he didn't get that hand job because she'd just run off, with her palms dripping, to impregnate herself and get access his money.

Can't wait. Happy Monday!

Shanna said...

"Third it," said Donna Shalala, the secretary of health and human services.

Those people were all idiots. All they had to do it talk to one person from Arkansas and they would have known. I remember people asking me in 96 when I moved to Washington if any of the rumors were true and I said, yep. Pretty much. Don't know if they believed me then but it because pretty obvious a few years later. This stuff was commonly known locally.

As for the main story? Where is the email. Don't tell me that girl didn't keep it. If it's real she will produce it and then we will see.

caplight45 said...

When it comes to things of a sexual nature I believe several things to be true of many accomplished men:
1. They over rate their desirability.
2. Power, as in unequal relationships like teacher-student, is an aphrodisiac.
3. They do not understand female sexuality and therefore think what turns them on will of course be a turn on for the object of their desire (I chose "object" purposefully).

Now, props to Dr. Helen, many women have learned to unjustly game the system and even create a system in which "sexual harassment" charges can be used as a weapon. Absolutely. In academia it has now become institutionalized (see College Insurrection blog). For all his supposed intelligence you would have thought this professor would have known that and behaved accordingly. Perhaps it's the difference between intelligence and wisdom.

SGT Ted said...

I imagine aronamos fantasy will be unfulfilled.

His denial of sexual harassment is rather absurd given what he sent about getting a "handy" in his email to the student, alone.

Nevermind any other stupid, offensive or inappropriate thing he said in his clumsy pursuit of a young woman he was supposed to be teaching and not propositioning.

His defense is weak sauce. No bolus could be fashioned that would make his excuse swallowable. He is so educated, he believes stupid things.

aronamos said...

Really, Ted? The comment following mine cites Dr. Helen, she of the blogstar husband and cyborg heartand author of the grumpy men's manifesto. Those guys all believe in spermburglary by condom, mouth and paw.

William said...

Since when did philosophers start contemplating the evolution of the human hand? Why ten fingers? Can we make a teleological case that God wants us to use the decimal system? If God wanted use to use a duodecimal system, He would have given us six fingers on each hand. Perhaps I'm being too Thomastic. Perhaps it's the prehensile thumb that's the culprit. The Marxists would claim that man's grasping nature is rooted in his prehensile thumb......I would think that once you start contemplating the evolution of the hand, jokes about hand jobs are a historical inevitability.

Ralph Hyatt said...

Never underestimate the human capability for self-delusion.

He sent the email because he thought she would welcome it.

He convinced himself that she was laughing at his jokes and bantering with him because she was "in" to him.

Instead it turns out she was being polite because he had the power to adversely affect her life.

Who would have thought it?

mccullough said...

Reminds me of that intelligent, autonomous hand from the Addams Family.

AF said...

It's interesting that you bring up Shalala's response to Bill Clinton's behavior. Originally, as you point out, she believed Bill Clinton. But when it turned out he was lying, she did not go easy on him. On the contrary, she stood out within the administration by responding in an unexpectedly "harsh" way:

"Many volunteered their backing, and talked in starkly personal terms both about their feelings that the president had badly failed on a personal level but that he was on the path to redemption. But Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala offered what two participants described as an unexpectedly "harsh" assessment."

Shalala's latter assessment of Clinton seems more relevant to the McGinn case than her initial belief that he was telling the truth, because despite the NYT's reference to "disputed facts" in the McGinn case, the facts actually appear to be largely undisputed, though not publicly known. That is, the dispute seems to involve the proper interpretation of McGinn's emails to his student rather than a he-said/she-said question of whether particular incidents actually happened. Thus, it's less a question of whether Shalala is inclined to believe one of the two parties than a question of how she responds to inappropriate behavior by a senior male.

In this respect, it seems that whatever else you want to say about the McGinn case, President Shalala has been fairly consistent in coming down "harshly" on sexual harassment by powerful males.

AF said...

It's interesting that you bring up Shalala's response to Bill Clinton's behavior. Originally, as you point out, she believed Bill Clinton. But when it turned out he was lying, she did not go easy on him. On the contrary, she stood out within the administration by responding in an unexpectedly "harsh" way.

Chris Lopes said...

Yes, sending an email to a student that mentions hand jobs can be considered sexual harassment. That the professor didn't seem to understand this reality is proof his education was wasted on him.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for that link AF. What I notice is that others report that she said some things in private and she declined to be interviewed about:

"The participants said Shalala rejected what she took as Clinton's implication that policies and programs were more important than whether he provided moral leadership.... '[Clinton] whacked her, let her have it'... After that, no other Cabinet member had anything critical to say, the participant added. Shalala declined to give any interviews after the session."

I'm not impressed, since she was used to vouch for him to us. When did she speak to us?

Also, it's interesting that she objected to the sex but not to the lying. Clinton's attack on her seemed to be about her prudishness. He compared himself to JFK.

n.n said...

The human "hand" evolved to pressures that emerge in a relationship. As Costanza observed quite correctly, you have to have hand in a relationship; otherwise, you risk being sued for sexual harassment. It would appear that McGinn missed the forest for the trees, which is ironic since he is described as a "philosopher."

bpm4532 said...

Regarding the disgrace of public employees and politicians, we should note John Profumo, a British politician, who was caught in a sex scandal and lied about it. After his resignation, he turned to a life of truly serving the public. He started cleaning the toilets at a charity and continued working there the rest of his life. Ultimately being awarded a CBE.

Yeah, John Edwards, Bill Clinton, Elliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner - they've done enough.

AF said...

I take your point about Shalala not actually doing anything about Clinton's behavior, Professor Althouse, but I think this is where the comparison between the Secretary of Health and Human Services' response to the president's behavior and the President of the University of Miami's response to a philosophy professor's behavior breaks down. Keepring her mouth shut publicly after being the one cabinet secretary to criticize the president to his face hardly strikes me as inconsistent with coming down hard on McGinn in her role as university president.

RecChief said...

perhaps someone who has a very high view of his/her own intelligence is subject to a higher degree of hubris, and there is nothing more to it than that.

Ann Althouse said...

"Keepring her mouth shut publicly after being the one cabinet secretary to criticize the president to his face hardly strikes me as inconsistent with coming down hard on McGinn in her role as university president."

Oh, I agree with that. I was being sarcastic in the post.

These are just different manifestations of power and hierarchy. Sometimes the woman is on top.

prairie wind said...

Should we empathize with a brilliant writer's impulse to riff amusingly with images and puns?

If he can prove that he's autistic, then he might be part of one of our current types of irreproachable people. "He has trouble responding to social cues." Please.

If she can show us the email in which she threatened to go public if he made any further sexual innuendo...then I might be sympathize with her. Until then, I am sympathetic with neither.

Mostly, I think something like this should ideally be solved between those two people or with the help of an angry spouse. It really shouldn't be something that makes headlines outside the university. So much yammering about something that happened between two very specific people...it really doesn't concern anyone else, does it?

Anglelyne said...

As for McGinn and "hand job." Should we empathize with a brilliant writer's impulse to riff amusingly with images and puns?

"Had a hand job imagining you giving me a hand job" counts as anybody's idea of what a brilliant writer riffing amusingly with images and puns might come up with?

I guess if by "brilliant" and "amusing" one means "painfully lame". So crassly anti-seductive that it works as an argument against McGinn (or, really, anybody over age 15 deploying it) having any real sexual intent whatsoever.

dhagood said...

althouse opines "The need for the inclusion of women in all of the academic fields trumps male complacency about sexual banter."

sure, because the world is ever so much better with women in every nook and cranny of everything. i hold no brief for mcginn, but i find the arrogance of that statement interesting.

Jupiter said...

"The need for the inclusion of women in all of the academic fields trumps male complacency about sexual banter."

As Larry Summers found out at Harvard, it also trumps experimental fact. Women demand that they be included in all male activities, and then demand that those activities be restructured so as not to offend their delicate sensibilities. If McGinn had frankly stated that he would not take on a female grad student, because he has a sense of humor, and they can't take a joke, he would have been attacked for sexist discrimination.

Jason said...

Every woman on Clinton's cabinet whom he allowed to vouch for him on televevision, thereby essentially calling Lewinsky a deluded stalker while Clinton knew that to be a falsehood, should have resigned immediately in protest. Nothing less was called for.

Kirk Parker said...

"He compared himself to JFK. "

Truer than we realized at the time, in ways that are not flattering to either man.

Jim S. said...

Really Althouse? Titillating? That creates a hostile blogging environment.