Monday, March 05, 2007

Comments on the "Open Letter on the Leonard Kaplan Case"

There are two aspects of the "open letter" that I should say something about.

First, it says nothing about the facts of the case itself. It only talks in very abstract terms about a certain "philosophical" aspect of it. As a result it, is rather bland. No bite to it. This is unfortunate, but inevitable under the circumstances. Earlier drafts did have comments on the facts themselves, but as we (the signers) argued about it, we gradually took every one of them out. The main reason was simple. To date, Len Kaplan has not come forth and given his account of the situation in public. In my view, this has become one of the most regrettable aspects of this case, and it is ticking a lot of people off. But it's what we have to work with. It made it imp0ssible for us as a group to comment on the rights and wrongs of the case in detail.

Second, the letter says very little about the obligations of faculty to conduct themselves in a way that is respectful and not insulting. As I have said, here, this is of course the other half of the equation. The letter focuses on the don't-try-to-intimidate-and-silence-the-faculty side of the issue, rather than the facutly-should-take-care-not-to-gratuitously-offend side of it. Obsessing about one side of these issues is what CAFAR does. You might say, it's our job, to be obsessed, just as it is the job of the student activists to emphasize the other side of the situation. This is as it should be, as long as the people on each side listen to those on the other and try, in their daily lives, to embody both sorts of values as well as they can.
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