Solidarity with Nathan Jun

The following is an open letter by Professor Nathan Jun, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Midwestern State University Texas (ht: Roderick Long). Please distribute widely. 

Dear Comrades:

As many if not most of you are already aware, I was subjected to an intense campaign of doxing, harassment, threats, and vandalism this past summer owing to comments I had posted on social media in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Although this campaign had waned significantly by August, it has since resumed with a vengeance this past week following a speech I delivered at a campus rally for Breonna Taylor on Thursday, 24 September. Within 24 hours of that event I had already received several death threats. The situation quickly escalated after fascists (acting in concert with local media) disseminated a comment I posted on a friend’s Facebook page.

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From Bootleg Liberalism to Trumpist McCarthyism

I’m not a big booster of my undergraduate alma mater, Princeton, or a big fan of its current president, Christopher Eisgruber. But when a self-proclaimed “libertarian” academic gleefully defends an absurdly unwarranted federal investigation into the institution, relying on transparently idiotic arguments, one reaches a point of discursive futility: this is not a person worth arguing with, or even all that much worth spitting at.

https://200proofliberals.blogspot.com/2020/09/princeton-plays-with-bull-and-gets-horns.html

No one with Brennan’s credentials can be stupid enough to believe the bullshit arguments he’s trundling out at this point. As a friend of mine pointed out, Brennan’s blog posts are not meant to be taken seriously. They’re just the efforts of a hostile well-poisoner working off his animosities in public in the confident belief that he can say anything about anyone with impunity. All I have left to say is: feel free, dude–and feel free to fuck yourself while you’re at it. Continue reading

At-Will Employment Redux

Back on July 25th, I took issue with Jason Brennan’s claim that

…in general, in legal contracts, even when there is language to the contrary, parties do not acquire the right to unilaterally revise the conditions.

This claim, I argued, is close to the reverse of the truth. Most employment in the US is employment-at-will. In at-will employment arrangements, employers unquestionably do have the right (both de facto and de jure) “to unilaterally revise the conditions” of employment. They often conceal this by having their employees sign what look like (and are called) “contracts.” But the “contract” in question will typically contain language to the effect that the employment arrangement is at-will, implying that the terms are revisable at will.* Continue reading

Socratic Epidemiology

It’s a little known fact that Plato’s truly last and final dialogue was called “The Coronavirus,” took place on a college campus in north Jersey, featured a protagonist named “Khawaja,” and had a soundtrack by Ozzy:

Student 1, walking down the quad: So Khawaja, are we closing or not?

Khawaja: I don’t know.

Student 2: You don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know?

Khawaja: I don’t know.

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March Madness

If you want to see the unconcealed essence of American higher education in action, pay attention to one simple contrast: As the coronavirus spreads, universities across the land are either closing or contemplating closure. But “closure” doesn’t quite mean closure; it means “continuity of instruction” for the duration of the public health crisis. So faculty and staff are struggling to convert on-ground classes to an online format, in order to maintain “continuity of instruction.” Not easy, not fun, but necessary. Continue reading

Colleagues, Tramps, and Thieves

A colleague of mine went to India over Christmas break, and gifted me a box of Indian sweets–laddu, barfi, and the like. I gluttonously consumed two-thirds of the box a few minutes after receiving the gift. I then put the box in the fridge of our faculty lounge, thinking I’d eat the rest the next day. I open the fridge just now, and it’s gone. And no, it can’t be a mistake. So yeah, it was stolen–as in theft, larceny, crime. It was in a distinctive gift box, and was virtually the only thing in the fridge. And it had to have been stolen by a faculty member, because the door to the lounge has a combination lock known (or presumably known) only to faculty. I guess Maintenance has access as well, but I simply don’t believe Maintenance would do something like this.

What manner of depravity is this? What kind of colleagues would steal a gift out of the faculty lounge–at a Franciscan school? Is nothing sacred?

War with Iran (3): Antiwar Activism with Student-Soldiers

An excellent (and for me, live) question on Facebook care of Mark LeVine, Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History at UC Irvine:

So, fellow academics — The new quarter/semester starts, you get an active duty or reserve service member in your class who might be deployed because of this nightmare Trump is so gleefully creating for us. Do you reach out to her/him and advise/urge/suggest that s/he refuse to deploy for anything related to a war with Iran, explaining that such a war would be a crime against humanity? Or do you wait for them to come to you if they so choose?

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Vile, Stupid, and Tenured

I rarely praise university administrators, but then, I rarely have the opportunity to do so. For once, an opportunity presents itself:

The provost did not mince her words about the opinions of a professor on her campus. His views were racist, sexist and homophobic, she wrote in a statement this week. They were “vile and stupid,” she said, and “more consistent with someone who lived in the 18th century than the 21st.”

But the provost, Lauren Robel of Indiana University Bloomington, was equally clear on another point: The First Amendment prohibited the university from firing the professor, Eric Rasmusen, for expressing those views. “That is not a close call,” wrote Professor Robel, who also teaches at the law school.

The unusually candid statement quickly drew attention from students, academics and lawyers, many of whom praised the provost for publicly excoriating the professor’s opinions while respecting one of the nation’s basic freedoms.

For once, a provost who’s struck the right balance between bureaucratic amoralism and opportunistic, pseudo-moralistic pandering. She’s absolutely right: firing Rasmusen is not a close call; neither is condemning him. The only close call is whether he should have been hired in the first place, but that ship has sailed. Continue reading

Ain’t No Skin and Bones

Are my academic experiences just totally idiosyncratic or does shit like this happen to anyone else?

I’m walking back from class into the building that houses my office. Through the glass of the front door, I see some students–three young women–walking toward me. So like the gentleman that I am, I open the door for them, and the first two file through, thanking me in turn. The third, whom I don’t know and have never met, thanks me as well, then conspicuously looks me up and down and says: “Wow, you have lost some serious weight! You look good! Keep it up!” Then insouciantly walks away.

What do you do with fulsome flattery when it’s transparently false? (I haven’t lost a pound in months.) Do you accept it and hope that others are deceived by it as well? Or do you suspect that you’re subtly being made fun of? Or do you just walk away in bemused consternation and wait for the next thing?

School’s Out Forever

Classic moments in academic life: I go to the local YMCA last night to do a workout. The young woman at the check-in desk looks vaguely familiar. I’m pretty sure she’s a former Felician student of mine, but can’t quite remember her name. I check in without mentioning this fact, and she checks me in without mentioning it, either–but we both do double-takes indicating (vague) mutual recognition.

I do my workout, and finally decide that I can’t leave the Y without somehow alluding to the Felician connection we have in common. So I leave by way of the entrance where she was sitting, and it turns out that she’s still there. “You were a student of mine at Felician,” I say by way of re-introduction, “but I’m sorry I don’t remember your name.” She smiles, gives her name, and without irony or self-consciousness says, “Yeah, I was a student at Felician, and I had something with you.” Continue reading