March 11, 2007

Official responses on the UW Law School controversy.

There's this, from "senior faculty of the UW Law School." And this, from Chancellor John D. Wiley. Discuss.

(If you need background, all my old posts are here.)


NSC said...

Assuming you are considered senior faculty, I was wondering why you are missing from the signature page. No hidden agenda behind the question, I assure you - I am not Doyle after all - but inquiring minds want to know. Well, my inquiring mind anyway.

Ann Althouse said...

Yes, I am "senior faculty" -- i.e., tenured. And your observation is correct. Keep sleuthing!

P. Rich said...

Re faculty statement:

Very sweet. Lots of wordy-words. Makes me feel all warm and cherished, and I'm not even a student.

Re Chancellor statement:

Big on engagement. Problem is, the student behavior was anything but. It was, in fact, right off page 27 of the campus activist handbook - or equivalent.

Even though the statement is clearly weighted toward addressing student 'issues and concerns,' real or imagined, at least it isn't a full-blown apologia to all the poor downtrodden on the planet. However (from the statement):

"The caricature of this incident as a beleaguered professor's right to free speech and a group of oversensitive students and their "politically correct" allies is an insulting disservice to all involved. Similarly, it is insulting to say that this is an insensitive professor abusing his position by intimidating defenseless students."

Maybe I missed something, but that doesn't seem to me to be a particularly accurate framing of the problems, however obtuse the language. And there are always two fundamental problems in cases from this noisome genre:

1. The original triggering event(s), however benign.

2. Subsequent distortions, amplification and 'piling on' which are contributed by the 'offended parties' and all the parasites that come out of the woodwork at the smell of blood.

There is a major difference, I believe, between those who comment on the professor's actions as a poor basis for all the uproar, and those whose actions caused the uproar, continue trying to increase it, and don't want it to go away without benefitting from it. The Chancellor's statement does not make a distinction, and we should not forget that the students made a choice about how to deal with their self-described wounded feelings. Their choice has made this a public spectable.

NSC said...

Well, after having my morning coffee and re-adjusting my internal clock to the new daylight savings time, I am deducing that your blogging about the whole controversy put you in the group that had an "interest in escalating the controversy" which "only served to make a true reconciliation more difficult" and that you having a popular blog "in this age of blogging, instant messages, email and talk radio" helped make it easier ". . . for isolated incidents to morph into international subjects of discussion . . ." which might make your signature, even if offered, problematic for the rest of the group.

Of course I could be wrong - you might have been home sick on the day they got it signed. Don't you hate that when it happens?

Internet Ronin said...

Were you asked/invited to sign on to this statement? As it has been issued through the public relations department of the university, it appears to be an official document.

Internet Ronin said...

It seems to me that the chancellor's statement has what can at best bedescribed as an accidental resemblance to known facts. This line is laughable:

There is no attempt by anyone, specifically the students, to limit Kaplan's free speech rights or his academic freedom to choose his own teaching techniques.

Oh really?

peter hoh said...

Keep sleuthing.

Well, I guess the next question is to find out if there are other senior faculty who are not signatories to the statement.

My wife insists that I have other priorities at the moment, however, so I'll leave that piece of the puzzle to someone else, should they be so inclined.

Brian said...

So many words and so little substance. The profs are sad that people's feelings and someone's reputation was hurt. We need to protect academic freedom while being sensitive to all of the students. I have to wonder what the point was, other than to register the faculty's official neutrality.

Internet Ronin said...

It should be noted that Kaplan himself signed on the letter. It appears that at least one other "senior faculty" that I am aware of did not sign on to the letter.

Ann Althouse said...

By sleuthing, I'm only referring to reading the document and figuring out why I didn't sign. Of course, I was asked to sign.

NSC said...

I give up then, Professor. If you were asked to sign my "problematic" theory is toast.

Don't tease us forever though . . . I have to get outside sometime today.

peter hoh said...

Althouse: proud member of the Contrarian Party.

Internet Ronin said...

Everything is relative, except fault. There is none found in any of these statements. All actors involved are as pure as fresh-fallen snow. No one but "outsiders" bears any responsibility for what was said and done.

Kirby Olson said...

Nicely put: Internet Ronin. Let's scapegoat OUTSIDERS to the UW system, and maintain that we on the inside are perfect little badgers or beavers or whatever it is. A wily move.

Patrick said...

"much of it intensified by the mass media and groups outside our community, whose interest in escalating the controversy only served to make a true reconciliation more difficult."

Hmmm... now where did this intensification come from? Who is going around blabbing to the outside world about the gentle, internal politics of this obscure, private, self-contained community? Who let the riff-raff in on this? More sleuthing!

I especially like this quote from the chancellor: "Although I appreciate legitimate public concerns over free speech and cultural understanding, uninformed accusations do not address real issues. Personal engagement is always preferable."

The chancellor is exactly right, though he has the wrong target. Seems to me this is precisely what caused the issue in the first place. The students made uninformed accusations in a public forum without personal engagement. Had they done this there would be no public interest.

ilia said...

The law school statement has the feel of something by a college freshman who just got done reading Catharine MacKinnon's work on speech. That statement is the kind of "logic" individuals use to reconcile speech codes with academic freedom. The statement also feels like an effort to defend the students against any outside criticism and a closeted attempt to silence bloggers and others who do not blindly defend the law school administration. In the end, the writer of this statement seems like someone who would have been happy to have the entirety of the story be the initial response, the forum, and the Dean's statement criticizing Kaplan. In short, this is a statement written by someone who utterly lacks a sophisticated understanding of academic freedom or the problems statements like this pose for teachers who deal with difficult subjects on a regular basis.

TMink said...

Darn it Internet R, you are posting more as of late and all too often I find that you have beaten me to commenting upon a glaring inconsistency or breakdown in common sense. Keep up the good work!

Chancelor Wiley wrote: "There is no attempt by anyone, specifically the students, to limit Kaplan's free speech rights or his academic freedom to choose his own teaching techniques."

Of course there was! The whole point of the student brouhaha (Brouhaha? Hah hah hah)was to limit Kaplan's speech by trotting our their wounds from his words that they did not hear him say. I have trouble believing that the Chancellor did not see this, perhaps I am being naive.

But words wound only when we allow them to. Protecting someone from "wounding words" is similar to "protecting" them too well from germs: In the latter they never develop a robust, healthy immune system, in the former they never develop a skin thick enough to keep their guts from falling out all over the place in a wounded, smelly mess.


From Inwood said...

Excellent analyses of these two "camel" statements from, Robin, Patrick, & ilia.

ilia: with all due respect, I would add to your limiting list of what some would wish to constitute the "story", the following:

"& Prof K's apologia/apology"

From Inwood said...


Excellent analogy of “wounding words” as germs.

Still, I’m sure you’ll agree that Profs must try to remain within the bounds of civil discourse (I’m not saying, from what I’ve read so far, that Prof K exceeded these bounds).

No college should pretend that it stands for Academic Freedom if it won’t defend all of its reasonable profs. And, yes, the term “reasonable” is difficult to pin down, as are the terms “wounding words”, “offended”, & "civil discourse" but that’s why college administrators, including the college CEOs, especially the CEOs get the big bucks. The money is for their judgment. Clerks can be hired for much less.

And, even re an “excited utterance”, college CEOs should even be able to determine whether (in context or out) it was “reasonable” or “offensive” & whether it amounts to a violation of the concept "civil discourse”.

Mike said...

It takes a unique talent to say the stuff in the Chancellor's statement with a straight face. I guess that's why they pay him the big bucks.

dearieme said...

How clever of the Senior Faculty to imply that they do not trust in the good intentions of the Hmong students. Are they looking for trouble?

dearieme said...

Isn't your Chancellor a pompous ass? (That's "ass" in the British sense. Probably.)

TMink said...

Inwood wrote: "Still, I’m sure you’ll agree that Profs must try to remain within the bounds of civil discourse."

It is my preference, and I do indeed hope that they try. But racist hate speech is protected speech. Still, protected speech does not mean that your job is protected! Not that this applies to Prof. Kaplan.


redneck hillbilly said...

In regard both statements.
As we say in hillbilly nation
Huh! Say What?

nobody said nuthin'

AlaskaJack said...

I think the real reason behind the UW Administration's failure to come right out with a forthright defense of Professor Kaplan and be done with it once and for all is that they are deathly afraid that sooner or later some professor will deliver a Bill Cosby-like lecture on the inner city underclass. Were this to happen at UW, the proverbal sh** would hit the fan.

John S said...

One can't help but wonder what Tom Fairchild would have thought.

From Inwood said...

Alaska Jack

Shhh! You're telling secrets & we must never do that, my dear.

And you fail to see that Bill Cosby is per se not "reasonable" & per se "offensive" & is, more important, engaging in "patency" rather than "latency". QED, he (or any Prof in your per impossible hypothetical) is not engaging in "civil discourse".

joeone said...

Perhaps you didn't sign the signature page because you objected to the "official response" referring to the discussion and analysis of this incident as a "caricature"?

Or perhaps you didn't think it was necessary (publishing the letter, that is)?

Just askin'

jeremy said...

It's not obvious to me why you didn't sign the statement.

Audrey_speaks99 said...

I find parts of the official response from UW Law School condescending in regards to the law students. I know people want to put the issue behind them and move on, but the response is a little too sweet for my taste. I'm also a little surprised that Kaplan signed it, after going through this ordeal. Why would he, after going through something as "painful" as this?