Self-righteous display

The latest in the Hypatia saga: the Associate Editors have circulated a new letter among the philosophers. Daily Nous shares it:

We, the members of the Board of Associate Editors of Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, are deeply disappointed that the Editors and members of the journal’s nonprofit board have been unwilling to collaborate with us toward a constructive solution to the current crisis, utilizing the processes for reviewing and changing policies outlined within the journal’s approved governance documents. As scholars who highly value Hypatia and who have dedicated a great deal of time and energy to its success, we are troubled by the recent statements by the Editors and the nonprofit board (posted on Hypatia’s website and Daily Nous on July 20, 2017). We are sending this response to members of the feminist philosophy community who have leadership positions in various feminist associations and journals because we do not wish to fuel speculations and inaccurate and harmful narratives about Hypatia of the kind that have circulated widely on the internet since this crisis broke in April.

Collaborate. They’re disappointed – deeply disappointed – that the editors and the board don’t want to collaborate with them. How collaborative was their letter about Tuvel’s article? How collaborative was that (now removed) Facebook post? Not collaborative at all, that’s how collaborative. It was a horrifying thing to do to a junior colleague and a very destructive thing to do to Hypatia…and its editors and board. Why should they expect the editors and the board to collaborate with them now? It’s a bit Trumpian, this expectation of collaboration that runs only one way.

Also notice that oh so typical agent-free version of the saga: “since this crisis broke in April.” As if it were an unexpected volcanic eruption. They caused the damn crisis with their uncollaborative letter and post.

On Monday, July 17 the nonprofit board gave us an ultimatum of either resigning by noon on July 19 or they would suspend the journal’s governance documents and, thus, the authority of the Board of Associate Editors. At that time, the nonprofit board also informed us that they planned to make a public statement in which they would announce either our resignation or their suspension of the Journal’s governance documents, depending on our response to their ultimatum. They also informed us of the Editors’ impending resignation, retroactive to July 1. Their recent public statement claims that they have “temporarily” suspended our authority. Nonetheless, their unilateral decision is a de facto suspension of Hypatia’s governance documents and a firing of us.

We strongly disagree with several of the claims made in both the Editors’ and the nonprofit board’s public statements explaining this action. Throughout this controversy, we have been guided by commitments to excellence, academic integrity, and inclusiveness that have long informed Hypatia’s vision and have established it as a leading feminist philosophy journal. Additionally, we remain steadfast in our commitment to working within the letter and spirit of the journal’s current governance document that was approved in 2012 by Hypatia’s Editors, Associate Editors, and founding members of the nonprofit board. To this end, we have repeatedly requested that the Editors and the nonprofit board engage in a mediation process with us, facilitated by a feminist philosopher acceptable to all parties. Our aim in making this proposal was to initiate a collaborative process in which we could discuss our differences, identify common goals, and find a constructive way forward for the good of Hypatia. Much to our regret, the Editors and the non-profit board rebuffed these requests, maintaining that we are solely responsible for the controversy in ways that, in our view, systematically deflect attention from the substantial philosophical and methodological issues that we see as the heart of the matter. Despite our persistent requests for mediation, the nonprofit board stated their willingness to engage in mediation only after they had posted their public statement, suspended our authority, and, de facto, suspended the journal’s governance document. We find it untenable to participate in such a process on these terms.

Ah, yes, mediation. They want collaboration and they want mediation – after they wrote those poisonous attacks on Tuvel. I’ve seen that before. Two or three of the inquisitors at Freethought Blogs tried to make me agree to “mediation” at the same time they were writing long inquisitorial blog posts about me every other day. Nope.

We whole-heartedly endorse the COPE guidelines cited by the nonprofit board, and we regard Hypatia’s governance structure and guidelines as living documents that should be held open to revision in the face of new challenges. However, while we have stressed the importance of acting within the framework for policy review set out in the journal’s governance document in order to address the crisis, the nonprofit board has made it clear that they were prepared to set those guidelines aside, using the legal power they have as signators to the publishing contract with Wiley-Blackwell. Hypatia’s nonprofit board was formed in 2008 for the purpose of handling the financial matters of the journal and signing contracts with the publisher. Hypatia’s Board of Associate Editors has existed since the journal was established and is identified, both in Hypatia’s governance documents and in the nonprofit board’s own operating guidelines, as centrally responsible for reviewing and revising the journal’s policies and, more generally, for ensuring Hypatia’s continuity as a journal founded and sustained by a community of scholars rather than by a corporate institution. We continue to believe that the best prospects for meeting current challenges lie in working within this framework, not setting it aside.

We understand that feminist philosophers are divided in their opinions about the letter we posted in May. We would like to emphasize that our letter neither called for retraction nor impugned any individual actions on the part of the journal’s editors. Instead, our letter clearly stated that it is the journal’s review process, not a particular, individual execution of that process, that requires review. A commitment to undertake such a review would make it clear that we take seriously public critiques of the journal and would be necessary if Hypatia is to realize the ideals of inclusiveness that we highly value. We understand that our decision to issue the letter was unusual, and that some members of our community consider it an abdication of our responsibilities as Associate Editors. To those colleagues, we ask that you consider carefully the position we have held since we drafted that letter: that our duties as Associate Editors of the flagship journal of feminist philosophy include being responsive to the voices of members of historically marginalized groups who have found philosophy in general, and feminist philosophy in particular, indifferent and at times hostile to their contributions. 

We are greatly concerned that the most recent public statements from the Editors and the nonprofit board will deepen a split in the feminist philosophy community. It is our hope that, as a community, we will opt instead to respond by reflecting upon, and seeking to ameliorate, the various ways in which feminist philosophy has not yet lived up to its ethical commitment to transform itself, and philosophy as a whole, into a discipline that honors the perspectives and welcomes the scholarly contributions of historically marginalized groups, including people of color, trans* people, disabled people, and queer people. The current controversy did not begin with our letter; it is instead grounded in long-standing differences and tensions within the field. It is precisely our respect for Hypatia that informs our belief that what is at stake here is not only the continued existence and relevance of this particular journal, one that has done so much to establish feminist philosophy as a respected and valued scholarly field, but also the very identity and parameters of feminist philosophy itself. This is a pivotal moment in which we need to come together to ensure that our practices and scholarship are appropriately responsive to relevant work by those who are marginalized within the discipline of philosophy.

We deeply regret that the Editors and nonprofit board were unwilling to engage with us in systematically reflecting on these issues and collaboratively addressing their implications for Hypatia. The declaration by the nonprofit board that they are suspending our authority means that we cannot fulfill our duties as Associate Editors in accordance with the journal’s governance documents. Regrettably, we see no alternative but to resign from Hypatia’s Board of Associate Editors with this letter.

Linda Martín Alcoff, Ann Cahill, Kim Q. Hall, Kyoo Lee, Mariana Ortega, Ásta Sveinsdóttir, Alison Wylie, George Yancy

I think what the editors and the board were unwilling to engage with the Associate Editors in was not “systematically reflecting on these issues” but doing so via public letters and Facebook posts. In other words the Associate Editors attacked Tuvel and Hypatia publicly and unilaterally, and now reproaches the board of Hypatia for not wanting to continue with that game.

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