(Note the change in the time of the event to 6:30 pm.)
I’m the co-chair, with Dr. Edward Ogle, of Felician University’s Committee on Leadership and Social Justice (CLSJ). Our theme this year is “Race and Criminal Justice in America,” and I’m pleased to be able to announce our kick-off event: a presentation by Professor Mark Denbeaux, of Seton Hall University Law School, on his recent co-authored study of racial profiling in Bloomfield, New Jersey (“Racial Profiling Report: Bloomfield Police and Bloomfield Municipal Court“).
The event will take place at 6:30 pm on Tuesday, September 27, 2016 in the Education Commons Building at Felician University’s Rutherford, New Jersey campus (223 Montross Ave, Rutherford NJ, 07070). I will serve as discussant; all are invited and welcome. (Note: Felician University’s sponsoring the event does not necessarily imply agreement with the contents of the Seton Hall Report, or with Professor Denbeaux’s views).
The CLSJ had originally conceived of the event as a debate between Professor Denbeaux and a representative from Bloomfield Municipal Government, but unfortunately, despite a summer’s worth of invitations to Bloomfield (several invitations each to the mayor’s office, to the Police Department, and to Councilwoman Wartyna Davis), Bloomfield has not only declined our invitation but declined to acknowledge it altogether. (If any relevant party in Bloomfield government sees this, and thinks that I’ve been too hasty in making the preceding claim, feel free to contact me at khawajai at felician dot edu. I’m still open to participation by a representative of Bloomfield Township, but the date and time of the event should now be considered fixed.)
Here’s a video based on Denbeaux’s report, from Vice News.
And here’s another video, an out-take from the first one, that opens in a new window. Here’s some press coverage of the report, from NJ.com. Some more, more, more, more, and yet more. (And one more, for good measure.) I neither fully agree nor disagree with Denbeaux’s report, and hope to blog it–as well as Bloomfield’s refusal to acknowledge my invitation–in the near future.
Postscript, September 1, 2016. Belatedly discovered this NPR interview with Professor Denbeaux. Hat-tip: George Abaunza.
Postscript, September 19, 2016: The time of the event has been changed from 6 to 6:30 pm.
I think there might be an inaccuracy here. You write: “Bloomfield has not only declined our invitation but declined to acknowledge it altogether.” But surely Bloomfield cannot decline the invitation if it fails to acknowledge it altogether. One suspects that is precisely the point of failing to acknowledge it.
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I don’t see why. It seems to me that you can do both simultaneously. Suppose you send me an invitation. I see that it’s from Riesbeck, know what it is (even without looking carefully at it), and throw it out, having no intention of accepting the invitation (and then some). In an obvious sense, I’ve failed to acknowledge receipt of the invitation (to you), but in an equally obvious sense, I’ve declined the invitation in that very act.
I didn’t mean that Bloomfield literally failed to acknowledge receipt of the invitation in the sense of not knowing that they’d received one (or seven). That is possible, but very, very unlikely. Nor did I mean that they declined the invitation to me. You don’t have to decline an invitation to the invitee to decline it. You just have to decide not to go. “He declined to attend” doesn’t mean he said he wouldn’t and didn’t. It means he decided not to and didn’t.
In any case, now that I’m back, I intend to call them, so unless they refuse to pick up the phone, that will give them the chance to decline in the speech-act sense.
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Yes, I was playing on the ambiguity in “decline,” but the semi-serious point is that declining to acknowledge receipt of the invitation has, or can seem to have, a different significance than explicitly declining it. Explicitly declining it states very clearly that I have considered this invitation and rejected it; refusing to acknowledge it in the first place leaves it rather more ambiguous. Instead of telling you that I don’t regard your event as worth my time or coming up with some sort of excuse, I just don’t tell you anything. I thereby do not commit myself to any particular view of whether it is worth my time, whether it would be but I have conflicting engagements, etc. I don’t even make it clear whether I simply regard you and your event as unworthy of so much as an acknowledgment — though I do suggest that. For all we know, these people really did try to contact you, or they never saw your invitation because their dog ate it. But it seems rather more likely to me that refusing to acknowledge it allows them to avoid the event without making a statement about it and to suggest to you, without committing to it, that they don’t regard your event as worth their time. But that is, I admit, a cynical interpretation.
Yeah, I guess we’re not really disagreeing that much.
That the mayor and the police department want to ignore me is not that surprising. Disappointing, but not entirely surprising. But (and this isn’t a rhetorical question) how am I to react when I send months’ worth of emails to an academic at a nearby institution, and hear nothing in the way of a response–not “yes,” not “no,” but just silence? Wartyna Davis is a Councilwoman-at-Large on the Bloomfield Town Council. She’s also an Associate Dean in the College of Humanities at William Paterson University (a few towns away), Professor of Political Science (meaning full professor), and former chair of the department there. She’s been very vocal in the press in her criticisms of the Seton Hall report. An example:
Well, OK–that’s a possible criticism. I myself think that the report has some significant methodological flaws, and that some of them involve upgrading (justifiable) suspicions of racial bias into verdicts of racial bias.
But if you make a claim like this in the media (over and over), and you’re invited to discuss your claims at an academic forum at a nearby institution, and the person doing the inviting is at some level a professional colleague and (in a clearer way) a political constituent, and you’re up for re-election this November (so that you owe your constituents more responsiveness than usual), and he makes six polite requests, am I wrong to think that you have a moral and professional obligation to acknowledge his invitation and respond to it in some way or other? Isn’t it a dereliction of your duty both as a political representative and as an academic not to respond? A political representative owes a response to her constituents, and an academic owes a duty to the public she serves and to the community of scholars generally. I don’t claim that this latter duty is very stringent. But I think it’s weighty enough to oblige her to hit “r” and say “yes, I’m coming” or “no, I’m not coming.” Combined with the first duty, however, I think the failure to respond over a whole summer is a minor scandal. It’s the kind of thing I feel justified in bringing to the attention of the political opposition.
Do you think I’m justified in asking, by email or by phone, until I get an answer? I mean, it’s possible that her professional email just wasn’t working, or she hasn’t checked it in three months, or my emails have just vanished into thin air. How will I know until she tells me? I feel as though I haven’t done due diligence until I hear from her.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with asking until you get an answer. I’m not sure if you’d be failing due diligence if you were to give up after a while, but if she wants you to stop annoying her then she should just answer you. Given what she’s said publicly, I wouldn’t be surprised if she just wants to avoid it. But she’s supposed to be a professional — a professor, a holder of public office — so she should do the professional thing and either attend or inform you that she cannot attend.
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