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11/13/2017

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Ben

Hi Shelley,

You write that "A couple of years ago, I saw the results of a survey which reported that disabled philosophers make up approximately .01 percent of full-time philosophy faculty in Canada." Does this require that there are at least 10,000 full-time philosophy faculty in Canada (since .01 percent is 1 in 10,000)? I wouldn't have thought that there are that many full-time philosophy faculty in Canada, so I'm wondering if there is possibly a mistake somewhere here. I'm also wondering if there are a significant number of people with disabilities, especially invisible disabilities, who aren't being counted in that statistic -- e.g. is it self-reported? -- but that's another issue.

Thanks in advance.

Shelley

hi Ben,

the survey was conducted by the Equity Committee of the Canadian Philosophical Association. Although I saw it a couple of years ago, it had been conducted a couple of years before that time. The survey relied on the reporting of departments.

.01 equals 1% or 1 in 100.

Shelley

Ben

Hi Shelly,

Thanks for the additional information. And I agree that .01 equals 1% or 1 in 100. But your post says ".01 percent," which equals .0001 or 1 in 10,000. So you might remove the word "percent" from ".01 percent."

Ben

Ramona

I realize now how naive I am to think that the situation in my own department is reflected across the country. I work in a department of 15, with 3 disabled individuals, significantly more than the .01 figure for the nation, and definitely more than “virtually none”. (None of the department’s disabled individuals work in philosophy of disability.)

This does make me wonder how the .01 figure was obtained, so any additional information on this would be much appreciated. The problems pointed to in the post are serious ones, obviously, but I’m concerned that one of the problems not mentioned is that disability is so invisible to diversity initiatives that it may be under-counted. Disabled philosophers are here, and we count.

Shelley

Oh, Ben, now I see! Thanks for catching that. In any case, it is not the figure that I use in my book. In my book, I say less than 1 percent. I corrected the figure in the post.

Ben

Got it -- thanks!

Shelley

Ramona, as I indicated to Ben, a survey was conducted by the CPA Equity Committee. The survey included direct questions about the number of disabled faculty on department rosters.

I agree that disability is usually left out of diversity initiatives and reports about them. In the October 26 article, for instance, there is only one reference to the underrepresentation of disabled academics.

I'm afraid the fact that your department has 3 disabled faculty members is not representative of the situation in departments across the country. But the fact that your department does not have a disabled philosopher of disability is indeed representative of the current state of affairs in Canadian philosophy departments.

Ramona

Thanks for that info, Shelley. I’m trying to find out more about how the CPA’s equity committee conducted their survey, which isn’t easy to do, but so far, it does look as though the results may not be as accurate as one might hope. In addition to the usual problem of response rate, results may have been skewed by the fact that only one respondent, e.g. a department Chair, may have been asked to respond on behalf of entire departments, and may thus have underreported. It’s also not clear which departments were surveyed, e.g. universities only, or were colleges included? Some community colleges have philosophy departments that are larger than some university departments, yet they are often omitted from such surveys. There are still far too few disabled philosophers in Canada, to be sure, but it makes sense to try to count as accurately as possible. Sorry my inquiry duplicated one of Ben’s questions! I was typing my comment while your discussion with him was posting.

Shelley

Ramona,

thanks for your comment. I have mixed feelings about the idea that an accurate count is needed. In my view, even if 5% of philosophy faculty in Canada identified as disabled, that number is still far too low.

I am very concerned that there is no disabled philosopher of disability employed full-time in a Canadian department. For one thing, given the prominence of bioethics in some of the larger departments in Canada, many philosophy students will be taught only a medicalized conception of disability, especially on physician-assisted suicide, euthanasia, selective abortion and other topics that are considered standard fare for general bioethics courses. Some of these students will go on to be the next generation of philosophers. The fifth chapter of my book concentrates on bioethics, its political character, and how it operates to reproduce the underrepresentation of disabled philosophers and the marginalization of philosophy of disability.

Ramona

I am very much looking forward to reading your book, especially chapter 5.

Numbers are indeed far too low so we are in agreement there, and I think I understand what you mean by mixed feelings. I wouldn’t argue for accurate numbers for their own sake, because as you rightly suggest, the difference between one per cent and five isn’t a big one when overall attention to and support for diversity is so weak. I would hope that we are too sophisticated, for example, to fall for the trick that says disabled philosophers have increased their numbers when it turns out that all we did was count differently (but as I conceded at the outset, I am naive).

My thought is more that the way in which disability is counted is also itself political, so that advocating for a more inclusive and rigorous approach to data-gathering must be part of a broader program of attention and support. Not to take a mere bean-counters approach to data gathering, but rather to emphasize that the political nature of philosophical thinking about disability includes a commitment to surveying methods that do not further marginalize disabled philosophers.

Shelley

Ramona,
thank you for your enthusiasm about my book. That's very kind.
I agree that the way in which disability is "counted" is political and indeed the very fact that it is counted, that it is something to count, is "political."

I hope you enjoy my book and find its arguments compelling.
Thanks for your comments today,
Shelley

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