My Treatment in Last Tuesday’s OAC Call
Last Tuesday (2/11/2010), Dr. Onkar Ghate, Debi Ghate, and Dr. Yaron Brook held a phone conference with most of the current OAC students. In preparation for this call, an email was sent out to the OAC students which, among other things, contained a PDF that had the conclusion of the ARI section of my recent post about Dr. McCaskey’s resignation, and none of the rest. In addition to many other topics, part of the phone conference consisted of Dr. Ghate discussing me and the post, based solely on that conclusion.
Only my conclusion was sent to the group, and only the conclusion was discussed. My post was long for a reason: I knew my conclusions were surprising and I wanted to make sure my evidence was presented as fully as possible. The conclusion was clearly not meant to stand alone. What possible reason was there to take my discussion out of context? I was never told that my post was being used, and if things had happened the way Dr. Ghate intended I wouldn’t have even known that there was an OAC call, let alone that I was discussed. Why was it so important that I not know about this?
My post was characterized as a “rant”. Granted, my post was long, but, however much one may disagree with the conclusions, that is a completely unwarranted description. I strove to make the reasons for my conclusions clear and based on the evidence in a calm, straightforward manner, and though my conclusions may be extreme that does not mean they are the emotionalistic, unsupported spewing that “rant” implies.
According to the discussion, my conclusion is an attack on the integrity and independence of current ARI intellectuals, and Dr. Ghate was surprised by that attack. I think it’s clear (especially given the rest of the article) that I was talking about the implications of the implicit policy of Dr. Peikoff’s email staying in place for the future of the Institute, not anything to do with any current intellectuals. My point (which I stand by) was that IF it’s true that a person can lose his job for an intellectually honest disagreement that does not imply disagreement with Objectivism or contradict the policies of the ARI (as appears to be the case here), THEN the climate at the ARI will be incompatible with the needs of an academic, and one implication of that is that any future work from the ARI will have to be looked over a bit more skeptically. Now, I’m not ruling out the possibility that someone could honestly interpret my statement otherwise, but no one at the ARI, including Dr. Ghate, ever contacted me to make sure my views were understood correctly, or to make sure I was aware of the implications. Why, if Dr. Ghate was so surprised, didn’t he say anything to me? [ADDENDUM 7/11/10 2335 EST: After Anon2 in the comments contacted me privately with his concerns, I want to clarify that it is possible to interpret Dr. Ghate as having said that it was possible I was unaware of the implications of my position. However, although that would mean he wasn't as unfair as I thought he was, it would just make it even more confusing that he didn't try to contact me first.]
I was apparently ridiculed for saying that my interpretation was “the only reasonable interpretation of these events”. That statement was meant to be read in the context of the rest of the post, that is “given what I’ve said here, this is the interpretation I’m lead to”. Obviously, if I was wrong about something in the body of the post, my conclusion is no longer supported as I thought it was, but I don’t see how it’s fair to interpret me as saying that any reasonable man looking at the situation would come to my conclusion. If I had thought that were the case, why would I have put so much time into giving my reasons?
It was claimed that I wrote this post without any attempt at communication or asking questions. This is absolutely false. On September 20th, nearly a month before the publication of my post, I sent an email to Dr. Brook raising the very same concerns I raised in the post. I then postponed writing my post to wait for a reply, which I only gave up on after Dr. Brook’s email published in the NoodleFood post about this issue made it clear that the ARI was not interested in (or able to) clarify the situation. There are at least four people who had intended to contact the ARI with questions who decided not to after I told them my email went unanswered.
The timing and reasoning of my departure from the OAC were also discussed on the call (with my friends and former classmates in the audience!), as was Dr. Ghate’s interpretation of my attitude toward him and the OAC as a whole. Now, I don’t particularly mind them knowing all of that, but that information is mine to tell. If Dr. Ghate thought it was important that the students know these private facts, why didn’t he contact me first to make sure I was ok with them being discussed?
Finally, Dr. Ghate made assumptions about why I am no longer recommending the OAC that I can characterize as nothing less than a completely baseless fantasy. It was suggested (apparently in a very condescending tone) that I planned to tell stories that took class discussions out of context to demonstrate the lack of intellectual independence of OAC students. My post was explicitly set up to be supported only by publicly available facts, and I have given no indication that I thought the classes had evidence of intellectual cowardice (in fact, my experiences demonstrate otherwise), that I would take classroom discussion (that I promised, when joining the OAC, not to spread) out of context, or that anything in this entire post was based on my personal experience in the OAC at all. Why didn’t Dr. Ghate take me at my word: that I was no longer recommending the OAC because I didn’t think the ARI has an appropriate environment for an intellectual so long as Dr. Peikoff’s email goes unchallenged? Perhaps he disagrees with that conclusion, but at least that is what I actually said.
As you can probably guess, I’m extremely upset and furious. I’ve been misrepresented, been subjected to falsehoods, and never received even the courtesy of an email letting me know that anyone took issue with my statement (let alone checking to make sure I was interpreted properly). I sent an email to Dr. Ghate, Dr. Brook, Debi Ghate, and (based on mistaken information about her relationship to the call) Dr. Tara Smith asking for an explanation of this treatment of me, and received nothing. This aspect of the situation has been terrible on many levels: that I’ve been attacked in front of my friends and former classmates, that, if Dr. Ghate had had his way, I wouldn’t have had a chance to defend/explain myself or (if I had thought I had done wrong) apologize, that a man I respected and liked treated me and my intellectual work in such an inappropriate (and, frankly, mean) fashion, and that an educator abused his authority and position to attack his former student in order to provide a “lesson” to his current ones. In order to explain my situation and feelings, to defend myself to my classmates who heard the attack, and to allow the general public to know what Dr. Ghate (sanctioned, by silent assent, by Debi Ghate and Dr. Brook) has done and to judge him accordingly, I had to publish this post. I hope this will help lead to a more just resolution of the situation, but at the very least I will have said my piece.
If you want more information about this situation or my views, please feel free to contact me.
ADDENDUM (7/11/10, 2040 EST):
I have received several comments from those concerned with the source of my information. To that, I have two comments:
- I am certain that I am not leaving out important context, and that the remarks I claim were made were made. If you want to know the details of how, please contact me privately.