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Michael Zeleny [userpic]
Academic Expulsion Rules and Practices Query

On 29 February of this year, two days before the election of pint-sized Dmitry Medvedev to the post of the President of Russian Federation, performance art group Vojna (War), formerly best known for its eccentric commemoration of conceptual poet Dmitry Prigov in a moving train of the Moscow Metro, mounted another exhibition in the Biological Museum. This time, they performed in support of the survival of the bear as the totem animal of ancient Slavs. Notably, the run-up to the election prominently featured a spontaneous youth movement of “bear cubs” rallying in support of Vladimir Putin and his designated successor, whose last name fortuitously echoes notional kinship with Ursus arctos. Thus the most recent Vojna performance featured allegedly authentic sexual intercourse under the banner captioned FUCK FOR BEAR CUB’S HEIR.

In the wake of this affair, some of its participants were identified as students of the Philosophy Department of the Moscow State University, from which they were expelled after the mandatory hand-wringing faculty sessions. Their expulsion was allegedly motivated by considerations of philosophical decorum. Coincidentally, political technology is the most lucrative specialty taught by the MSU Philosophy Department at present.

In the ensuing discussion, several parties have posed the question of whether or not students engaging in similar behavior would have been expelled from Oxford or Harvard. I therefore ask all interested and informed parties to weigh in on this issue with considerations of rules and precedents.

Crossposted to [info]larvatus and [info]elitistasshat; banned from [info]philosophy.


Explain to me why this question is relevant to this community.

The expulsion was allegedly motivated by considerations of philosophical decorum.

Not a chance. I burned that bridge eighteen years ago by protesting the revocation of Alonzo Church’s tenure by his colleagues at the UCLA Philosophy Departmnent.

Not all of your interlocutors will play along. Deeming them obtuse on this ground will not sit well with the jury.

In the US, it would be hard to get thrown out of a state school for making amateur porn or what have you. A private school would be another matter, but not knowing much about Moscow State, it's hard to say whether they had the leeway to toss the students out.

If they have as much leeway as a private university in the US would, they would be well within their rights to expel students for such conduct.

Ideally, one should not be expelled from a university for anything short of plagiarism, etc., but we don't live in an ideal world and such actions can and do influence the reputation of a university.

In the realm of the anecdotal, I lived near an educational institution that gained a good bit of ill-repute when it made media headlines. In this case, it was two students having sex in the classroom, during class, with the teacher present. Nothing was done about it, and I think this is why many parents decided not to send their kids there the next year.

Harvard dismisses rapists and revokes academic status for Holocaust denial. In a less tolerant era, R. Buckminster Fuller got expelled from Harvard twice, for treating an entire New York dance troupe to champagne on his own tab, and after readmission, for irresponsibility and lack of interest. A few years later, seven students and one instructor were expelled for homosexual conduct.

An ongoing controversy concerns the likelihood of Socrates withstanding scrutiny under the MSU code requiring all students to conform to socially accepted moral and ethical rules.

So, you're saying that there are limits to acceptable behavior for members of an academic institution? Shocking!

I am interested in the argument that takes the example of Socrates as licensing philosophers to deviate from socially accepted moral and ethical rules.

Remember the bit where I mentioned that we don't live in an ideal world? Human norms are the ultimate rule at the end of the day, and (for good or bad), not philosophical ideals.

Never mind philosophical ideals. In social practice, academics benefit from numerous dispensations. I think that many of them are underwritten by reasoning of the aforementioned kind.

So you're saying the academics in question should get a free pass on their behavior on the basis of the fact that they're at an academic institution?

That reeks of playing something along the same lines the 'race card'.

Now if they had claimed to be performance artists... (I'm just joking).

I am not saying that academics should get a free pass. I am merely observing that they get it more often than the rest of us. Short of retailing stale gossip, I assure you that the sort of sin that stumped Eliot Spitzer has not impeded the careers of many a campus Savonarola.

I'll agree with your observation in theory, but I'll continue to note that all things have their limits, and these people seem to have found them.

No doubt. But the question remains, why these limits are more elastic in academia than elsewhere.

Ah, so you've finally gotten around to asking the actual question!

Limits are more elastic in academia simply because of the higher average of 'behavior that's out of the ordinary'. One might theorize that the noted effect of mental disorders rising along with intelligence levels implies that when you group large numbers of people together with higher amounts of intelligence levels than the general population, the average 'behavioral deviance' becomes higher also.

Simply put, the limits are more elastic in academia because the average level of strange behaviors they have to put up with is an order or two above that of the general population.

A hypothetical example might be:
Professor Smith gets a free pass on his alcoholism because there's simply no one else that will teach the same classes as well as he does.

Joe Smith the factory worker gets fired for his alcoholism because there's plenty of other people that can put bolts into cars on an assembly line.

What skilled trade in an economy dominated by corporations does not depend on “group[ing] large numbers of people together with higher amounts of intelligence levels than the general population”?

Define 'skilled trade'.

Perhaps it's best phrased so:

"For any discipline that requires a higher level of intelligence / skill / rare trait than is found in the general population on average, the more strange people with correspondingly strange behaviors it seems to attract."

I think that academics rate much higher on their public manifestation of, and corporate tolerance for, strange behaviors, than do bankers, lawyers, physicians, or politicians.

In turn, I'd argue that it's more socially permissible for academics to be 'kooky' than it is for any of the occupations you've listed. It's almost expected to a degree.

While as a doctor, lawyer, banker or politician, your standing rides on your perceived normalcy.

Doctors I've known personally have certainly presented a very restrained persona to patients, while showing quite the opposite in their daily social life in my experience. Politicians are often the poster children for 'put on a good face, but do hookers and crack cocaine when they think no one's looking'.

We seem to maintain violent agreement disconnected from the heart of the matter.

Why does the public that entrusts its offspring to campus moralists tolerates their transgressions, even as it terminates political careers implicated in similar behaviors?

Because a politician has a greater responsibility to society in the eyes of your average person. In many ways, it seems that politicians are held to higher standards than the average person in terms of what is deemed appropriate behavior.

Your average person is also very protective of his offspring.

Your point being?

My point is to find out why it's more socially permissible for academics to be 'kooky'.

Is everything okay with you, larvatus? This post is entirely in English, and that's very uncharacteristic for you.

While I see how having sex in a museum might legitimately sabotage, say, political ambitions, I don't see why it should sabotage their scholastic ones. It's a silly demonstration, and possibly it's indecent public exposure: but it's not a violation of academic integrity as I see it.

I don't know whether Harvard would have expelled them for the same; my experience at Cornell suggests that if they were undergrads, there might be a "children will act childish -- what do you expect us to do about it?" vibe, and if they were graduate students, it would really be up to the discretion of their colleagues.

What's philosophical decorum?

Knowing not to shag in public protest, for the whole world to see, when you're that butt-ugly.

That's just decorum. What makes it philosophical?

Maybe they are trying to redraw some line crossed by Diogenes whilst claiming to follow Socrates.

Could be, but if they say that the gap between decorum and philosophical decorum is analogous to the gap between Diogenes' decorum and Socrates' decorum then they are paying a pretty big complement to Diogenes (as having some decorum), which would be odd if they are being comparatively exclusive of Diogenes as lacking decorum. Why not just insist that the exhibitionists lacked normal decorum, as Diogenes lacked decorum?

It seems more likely that they are appending "philosophical" to "decorum" somewhat redundantly, as if to suggest that being a philosopher comes with certain politeness standards above non-philosophers. But that would be retarded.

If his distant namesake is to be believed, Diogenes of Sinope must have had some decorum. His contempt for wealth and power is hard to dismiss as a mere affectation. But Plato made sure that he would not rank highly among the followers of Socrates.

In making her demands of Sir Edward Bomston, Rousseau’s Julie Julie d’Étange implies that le décorum philosophique is more exigent than the generic variety. (Julie ou La nouvelle Héloïse I, 46) I have no problem with regarding politeness as a philosophical quality. But as Comte-Sponville pointed out more recently, politeness is the contrary of authenticity. So the followers of Jean-Jacques might run into an obstacle there. Maybe that is the key issue at the Moscow State University.

That's really interesting, I don't have anything to respond to do your comment justice. I've already got La nouvelle Heloise, now I'm actually motivated to read past its first two pages. Thanks for the information.

You are welcome. In all candor, alhough Jean-Jacques is a giant among onanists, I find La nouvelle Héloïse hard going. I got the quotation by way of Littré.

On the other hand, Comte-Sponville is a breeze. Only Harry Frankfurt is as deft at disseminating moral precepts.

Or maybe they're just sad, perverted meat-sacks.

Honestly. There was nothing tasteful about that protest. There was no dignity in it. They should've been expelled for lack of class alone.

You want to make a statement, you stand up to a tank. You don't bonk your pregnant girlfriend on camera in a museum.

You want to make a statement, you stand up to a tank.

Or lie down before Alexander.

Lovis Corinth, Alexander und Diogenes, 1894

Now that I've clicked on your links, I note that one of them leads to what is in fact pornography.

You're banned.

Your time-out is over. Next time, label the link NSFW or something so we can tell which ones are articles and which ones have the porn.

Are you completely shameless or merely illiterate?

Which part of allegedly authentic sexual intercourse are you failing to understand?

And which part of "This link includes graphic pictures of..." did you fail to include in that?

Hence, an admission of illiteracy. I have no further questions.

Your original sentence:
"Thus the most recent Vojna performance featured allegedly authentic sexual intercourse under the banner captioned FUCK FOR BEAR CUB’S HEIR."

Where in this sentence do you see a statement or implication that the included link will contain pictures of the allegedly authentic sexual intercourse?

Nowhere, that's where. Look, if you want to be banned again, just say so. I can do that for you.

Far be it from me to interfere with the pleasure you take in concocting the rules as you go along.

As long as you know your place.

Now get in the kitchen and make me some pie.

Regrettably, my senile mother would be overcome by jealousy if I were to cook for another halfwit.

Surely there is no shortage of pimply sophomores eager to rise to the occasions of your craving.

Really? This is the best you can do? I'm disappointed.

There goes your chance to channel Johnny Strabler with “My old man used to hit harder than that.”

If you’d only known him.