Professor of Philosophy Resigns over Sexual Misconduct (rejected post)

Unknown-1My field (philosophy) is not known for the kinds of data frauds and retractions we’ve discussed on this blog, but scandals revolving around sexual harassment by male faculty are not rare, though I can’t think of another with a senior faculty resigning, at least not in recent times. This article is from 

A Few Words on the McGinn Imbroglio from the philosophy smoker blog (June 4, 2013)

As I guess we [in philosophy] all know, Colin McGinn has chosen to resign from the University of Miami rather than allow the University to proceed with an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct involving a research assistant. The article at the Chronicle of Higher Ed is here (paywalled); Sally Haslanger has posted a PDF of the whole thing here. Discussion at NewApps hereherehere, and here; discussion at Feminist Philosophers here; discussion at Leiter here and here.

Briefly, what seems to have happened is this: McGinn had a Research Assistant who was a female graduate student. Last spring, the RA started feeling uncomfortable with McGinn. Then, last April, McGinn allegedly started sending her sexually explicit email messages, including one in which, according to the RA’s boyfriend and two unnamed faculty members, “McGinn wrote that he had been thinking about the student while masturbating.”* Wowza.

The RA then contacted the Office of Equality Administration. According to CHE, “after the university’s Office of Equality Administration and the vice provost for faculty affairs conducted an investigation, Mr. McGinn was given the option of agreeing to resign or having an investigation into the allegations against him continue in a public setting, several of the philosopher’s colleagues said.”

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of this. On one obvious interpretation, there’s a clearly implied threat: if you don’t resign, we’re going to publicly drag your name through the mud. And I’m not sure how normal the prospect of a “public” investigation is in this kind of circumstance. For example, if I recall correctly, the Oregon case from a couple of years ago involved an investigation that was supposed to have been kept private, and was made public only in violation of the University’s procedures. But procedures vary from institution to institution, and I don’t have any expertise here. I don’t really have any idea whether this is unusual or not, although my suspicion is that it is at least a little unusual.

It therefore seems reasonable to worry about whether the procedures Miami followed here were respectful of McGinn’s right to due process. But it’s worth emphasizing that the CHE article is not very clear about precisely what happened—for example, Leiter says that McGinn had legal representation and was acting on his lawyer’s advice, but the CHE doesn’t mention it. It is also worth emphasizing that the account in the CHE comes from unnamed “colleagues,” not McGinn or his representatives or any official source at the University. And this comment at Feminist Philosophers, the veracity of which I am not in a position to verify, makes the meeting seem at least a little less troubling. On that account, it was more like, we’ve got some pretty compelling, well-documented evidence of misconduct, which we are duty-bound to pursue; but we’d like to give you the opportunity to resign now and save us both a big headache.

Harrassment occurs between professors, and not just between professors and students, but without the obvious professor-student taboo, it is not taken especially seriously, in my experience. Naturally philosophers, being philosophers, some of them, will engage in deep philosophical discussion of the philosophical nature and justification of the infractions and even how it might have grown out of a legitimate philosophical research on the topic of the evolutionary development of the hand, in relation to its physical functions. Continue reading

Categories: Rejected Posts, Uncategorized

Majority say no to inflight cell phone use, knives, toy bats, bow and arrows, according to survey

headlesstsaThe Transportation Security Authority (TSA) has just announced it is backing off its decision to permit, beginning Thursday, 25 April, pocket knives, toy bats, golf clubs (limit 2), lacrosse sticks, billiard cues, ski poles, fishing reels, and other assorted sports equipment, at least for the time being. See my post on “risk based security” Apparently, Pistole (TSA chief) could not entirely ignore the vociferous objections of numerous stakeholders, whom he had not even bothered to consult,  after all. Recall that the former TSA chief, Hawley, had actually wanted to go further, saying

 “They ought to let everything on that is sharp and pointy. Battle axes, machetes … you will not be able to take over the plane. It is as simple as that,” he said. (Link is here.)

I don’t have a strong feeling about blades, but I am very much in sync with the survey that influenced Pistole’s about face as regards cell phones (against) and liquids in carry-ons (for).

Vast majority of Americans say no to cell phone use and pocket knives inflight according to new survey

In a new, nationwide survey, Travel Leaders Group asked Americans across the country if they are in favor of the change and 73% of those polled do not want pocket knives allowed in airplane cabins. Also, a vast majority (nearly 80%) indicate they do not want fellow airline passengers to have the ability to make cell phone calls inflight. The survey includes responses from 1,788 consumers throughout the United States and was conducted by Travel Leaders Group – an $18 billion powerhouse in the travel industry – from March 15 to April 8, 2013.

“The results are very clear. Most Americans would prefer the status quo with regard to cell phone use inflight. Because so many planes are flying at near capacity and many passengers already feel a lack of personal space within the airplane cabin, it’s understandable that they want to continue to have some amount of peace and quiet whether they are on a short commuter flight or a flight that lasts several hours,” stated Travel Leaders Group CEO Barry Liben.

I’m really heartened to see that people are flouting the knee-jerk expectation that they’d want as much high tech as possible, and are weighing in against cell phones on planes. Recall my post on cell phones (now in rejected posts). Here are some of the statistics from the survey:

When asked, “Are you in favor of this change or against it?” 73% of those polled said they are not in favor of allowing pocket knives on planes.

I’m OK with it.


I’m OK with everything except   pocket knives.


I don’t think these items   should be allowed.


I don’t know.


Cell Phone Use Inflight

Studies are underway to determine if full cell phone use is safe while inflight and a decision on whether to allow such use (not just “airplane mode”) is expected this summer.  In Travel Leaders Group’s survey, nearly 80% of those polled are against allowing passengers to make cell phone calls during flight.  Here are the detailed responses:


I am opposed to it.


I am in favor as long as it   is not used for conversations.


I am in favor of it.


I don’t know.


Additional Statistics and Findings:

  • Eliminate One TSA Security Measure: With regard to TSA security screening at the airport, when asked, “Which of the following TSA security measures would you most like to eliminate?” the top responses were: “removing of shoes” (27.9%), “limits on liquids in carry-on baggage” (24.1%), and “none, do not eliminate any security measures” (19.8%).

  • Airport Security Satisfaction: When asked, “What is your level of satisfaction with airport security today?” 82.0% indicate they are satisfied or neutral with today’s security measures (62.2% indicate they are “satisfied,”19.8% are “neither satisfied nor unsatisfied” and 18.0% are “unsatisfied”).

  • Coach Class Flyers: When asked, “Do you ever fly in Coach Class?” over 94% of those polled said “Yes.” And of those who indicate they fly in Coach Class, when asked what makes flying in Coach most uncomfortable, the top responses were: “Lack of leg room” (49.5%); “seat size” (17.2%) and “pitch of the seat – person in front of me reclines too much” (15.0%).

  • This is the fifth consecutive year for this travel survey.  American consumers were engaged predominantly through social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as through direct contact with travel clients for the following Travel Leaders Group companies: Nexion, Results! Travel, Travel Leaders, Tzell Travel Group and Vacation.com.  (www.travelleadersgroup.com)

 So a tiny bit of good news among the forced air traffic control reductions and FAA cuts that began yesterday: See

Categories: Uncategorized

possible progress on the comedy hour circuit?

Image of business woman rolling a giant stoneIt’s not April Fool’s Day yet, so I take it that Corey Yanofsky, one of the top 6 commentators on this blog, is serious in today’s exchange, despite claiming to be a Jaynesian (whatever that is). I dare not scratch too deep or look too close…along the lines of not looking a gift horse in the mouth, or however that goes. So here’s a not-too selective report from our exchange in the comments on my previous blogpost:

Mayo: You wrote:”I think I wrote something to the effect that your philosophy was the only one I have encountered that could possibly put frequentist procedures on a sound footing; I stand by that.” I’m curious as to why I deserve this honor ….

Mayo: It was always obvious no competent frequentist statistician would use a procedure criticized by the howlers; the problem was that I had never seen a compelling explanation why (beyond “that’s obviously stupid”). So you deserve the honor for putting forth a single principle from which error statistical procedures flow that refutes all of the howlers at once.

: Corey: Wow, that’s a big concession even coupled with your remaining doubts….maybe I should highlight this portion of our exchange for our patient readers, looking for any sign of progress…

 Mayo: Feel free to highlight it. I will point out that this “concession” shouldn’t be news to you: in an email I sent you on September 11, 2012, I wrote, ‘I now appreciate how the severity-based approach fully addresses all the typical criticisms offered during “Bayesian comedy hour”. Now, when I encounter these canards in Bayesian writings, I feel chagrin that they are being propagated; I certainly shall not be repeating them myself.’

Mayo: Ok, so you get an Honorable Mention, especially as I’m always pushing this bolder, or maybe it’s a stone egg. It will be a miracle if any to-be-published Bayesian texts or new editions excise some of the howlers!

But I still don’t understand the hesitancy in coming over to the error statistical side….

Categories: Uncategorized

Statistically speaking…


calculus tattoo

Statistically speaking, we don’t use calculus By Dave Gammon

An article in a local op-ed piece today (Roanoke Times) claims:

“Quantitative skills are highly sought after by employers, and the best time to learn these skills is in high school and early college. And we all know the best math students should eventually learn calculus.

Or should they? Maybe it’s statistics, not calculus, that is a more worthy pursuit for the vast majority of students.”

This reminds me of the trouble I got into when, as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, I supplemented my fellowship in philosophy by leading some recitation classes in statistics at the Wharton school. Although it was vaguely suggested that I not assign homework problems that required calculus, since many of the exercises in the sections of the text (on business statistics) that I was to cover required, and were illuminated by, calculus, (and given that the text was written by a Wharton statistics professor [de Cani]), I went ahead and assigned some of them, and promptly was reported by the students[i]. The author of this article appears to have no clue that statistical methods depend on calculus and the “area under a curve”. Continue reading

Categories: Statistics, Uncategorized

What is Bayesian/Frequentist Inference? (from the normal deviate)

I see that Larry Wasserman (Normal Deviate) has an intricate blog post of relevance today: What is Bayesian/Frequentist Inference.  Firstly, I’m very glad he’s decided not to exile frequentist/Bayesian issues, as he had declared in starting his blog. Second, I would wish to suggest some revisions of certain points he lists; so it should be a good basis for discussion. I will come back to this when I return to NY from San Diego.

Categories: Uncategorized

New Kvetch Posted 7/18/12

New Kvetch

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