Friday, September 26, 2014

Publishing "Private" Emails

The question has been raised in several different venues with what right David Velleman and Sally Haslanger made public certain "private" emails from Brian Leiter to Carrie Jenkins and Noelle McAfee. The question was raised, in particular, in the comment thread on today's story about Leiter in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Velleman responded in that thread and has given me permission to excerpt his response here:
The emails we published contained serious and credible threats aimed at silencing the recipients. Such threats are not protected either by academic freedom or by confidentiality. The target of these threats may have no means of self-protection other than to expose them, and therefore cannot be obligated to suffer them in silence. If she responds that "insulting and threatening emails" may "get around", she is merely threatening to exercise her right of self-defense against prior, far more serious threats. To deny her the right to make this counter-threat would be to further empower a bully. His response that "other things will get around" has no similar justification.
Well said.

It continues to dishearten me how willing some people are to question motives and to debate fine points of strategy rather than to focus on the very real harm that Leiter has done and is doing. It is not, in particular, relevant at all that he is a great colleague who cares about his students. No one is saying otherwise, and no one is saying that Leiter is a "bad person". We are simply saying what I said before and will now say again: Leiter has hurt a lot of people, he has hurt them a lot, and he is still doing so. He needs to stop.

Those who refuse to recognize these elementary facts and to respond with appropriate moral concern both are enabling Leiter to continue hurting people and are actively contributing to that hurt. And that, in my not so humble opinion, is shameful.

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