Friday, September 26, 2014

Leiter's Mistreatment of Noelle McAfee

There's a really great comment by Laura Grams over at Feminist Philosophers about just why Leiter's telling Noelle McAfee that she is "a philosopher in a shit department" was such a horrible thing to do, in particular, what force the expletive has. Go read it, then come back.

As "yerblues" mentions later in the thread, it's really high time that more attention was paid to what Leiter did to McAfee, which was awful. I've been pretty sharply focused on what was done to Carrie Jenkins, because Carrie is my friend, whereas I don't know McAfee. That makes my focus understandable, but it's no excuse for not paying more attention to other recent victims, and I apologize if my narrow focus has been hurtful to anyone. This post is a first attempt to do better.

I invite everyone to read and reflect on this little gem from one of Leiter's emails to McAfee:
If my e-mails to you "get around," rest assured that other things will get around. I am tired of your sick nonsense. You are lucky to have any academic job, let alone a job at a nominally serious university.1
If you received such an email from the person who had been placement director when you graduated (and who has just recently reminded you of that fact), what thing dear to you would you think he was threatening?2 That shocks even me.

McAfee demonstrated extraordinary courage by allowing the email exchange between her and Leiter to be published, given the nature of the threats he had made to her. And it was incredibly important that there be concrete evidence that these are not isolated incidents. (There'd have been more such evidence if I'd save the emails I received from Leiter years ago.)

So thanks, Noelle. I'm sorry that you too had to go through this.

1 I'm no great fan of rankings, but Emory came out reasonably well in the most recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

2 Update: Just to be clear, I'm talking here about how someone who received such an email would naturally read it, not about Leiter's intentions in sending it. I'm not interested in Leiter's intentions.  Whatever his intentions, one is not responsible only for the intended consequences of one's actions.

Later update: McAfee has explained publicly how she understood this passage.

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