Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Essay That Prompted An Editorial Revolt At Duke Law School

Duke Contemp 5

Following up on my previous post, Duke Law School Kerfuffle Over Publication Of Article In Symposium On Sex In The Law (more here):  Chronicle of Higher Education, The Essay That Prompted an Editorial Revolt:

Kathleen Stock’s essay in the latest issue of Law and Contemporary Problems was controversial before she even wrote it. Last summer eight student editors resigned from the journal, which is published by Duke University’s law school, rather than be associated with the essay. The remaining student editors elected not to work on the issue in protest, and they voiced their objections in a note appended to the journal’s masthead.

[As a general matter, student staff members of the journal Law & Contemporary Problems (L&CP) do not select articles for the symposium issues in its volumes. As L&CP is organized and operates, issue proposals are approved by the journal's faculty board and article selections are made by the special editors. The student role is typically to produce the issues once articles have been finalized by the authors and special editors. In the case of this issue, 85-1: Sex in Law, no articles have been read, edited, or reviewed by any L&CP student staff editors or executive board members acting in their official capacities as journal members. Over the summer of 2021, eight 3L students resigned from the journal and the remainder of the 3L membership voted not to have student members contribute to this symposium in their official capacities; these decisions were in response to the inclusion of Kathleen Stock's essay and the faculty board's rejection of the student executive board's request for use of a style guide on uniform language for the issue which the student executive board's membership considered necessary to avoid harm to the transgender community.]

Doriane Lambelet Coleman (Duke; Google Scholar) & Kimberly Krawiec (Virginia; Google Scholar) , Foreword, 85 Law & Contemp. Probs. 1 (2022):

This symposium continues the discussion we began in Volume 80 (2017), on sex in different institutional settings. ...

We want to close with an expression of gratitude to the students who helped edit this volume after a number of editors and journal members resigned from the board or refused to work on it, for reasons explained in their statement on the masthead page. This includes the research assistants of individual authors, who did work that would normally have been completed by the student board, as well as Duke Law students who volunteered their time without pay or institutional credit to produce the rest. Among the latter, we especially want to recognize Meredith Criner who acted as de facto editor-in-chief even as she also did a lot of the below-the-line work normally reserved for junior members of the student board.

Chronicle of Higher Education, The Essay That Prompted an Editorial Revolt:

The proposed topic, along with Stock’s reputation, was enough to prompt a staff revolt.

The essay, titled “The Importance of Referring to Human Sex in Language,” is part of the journal’s “Sex in Law” special issue, which is dedicated to the “high-stakes, highly polarized” debate surrounding how sex is defined by courts and legislatures. In it, Stock, who until last fall was a professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, in England, argues against what she calls “sex-denialism.” The core of her case is the following: “Though it is normally polite and desirable to observe the preferred descriptors and pronouns of trans people in interpersonal contexts, there are times when literal and accurate reference to actual sex is important.” Among the times she cites: medical settings, sports teams, and prisons. Stock insists that “the concept woman does vital cognitive work that simply could not be done were the concept changed to refer to gender identity or social role.”

It’s hard to imagine a more opportune — or a more fraught — cultural moment for a conversation about sex and the law. State legislatures around the country are considering, or have passed, bills related to transgender participation in sports or to medical procedures for transgender youth. Meanwhile, Lia Thomas, a transgender woman on the women’s swim team at the University of Pennsylvania, has sparked a national debate about fairness and inclusion, and has placed the NCAA’s shifting policies under intense scrutiny.

Dylan Jarrett believes Stock’s argument is wrong, poorly argued, and dangerous. Jarrett, a third-year law student at Duke, resigned as editor in chief of the journal last June because of Stock’s proposed essay (according to the note on the journal’s masthead, students do not select articles for special issues, though they are normally involved in editing and producing issues). In her resignation letter to the faculty editorial board, Jarrett predicted that the essay would be a “direct attack on transgender people and their identities.” Now that she’s read what Stock wrote, Jarrett says her fears have been confirmed. “I think it’s really clear that this is not scholarship — it’s transphobia,” she says. “It’s a bad article. It’s badly written. It’s badly argued. It’s embarrassing that Duke would publish something like this.” ...

Stock has been the subject of protests before, including close to home. She resigned from the University of Sussex last fall after some students there objected to her continued employment, hoisting banners with messages like “Stock Out” and “No Terfs on our Turf” (the acronym TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist and is generally considered derogatory). Stock has said she left her position after the police suggested that she would need bodyguards on campus and advised her to install security cameras at her home. “This has been an absolutely horrible time for me and my family,” she tweeted last October. “I’m putting it behind me now.” ...

Jarrett doesn’t believe that Stock’s essay would have appeared in the issue if Coleman hadn’t been one of the special editors. She considers Coleman’s views on transgender women’s participation in sports discriminatory and isn’t comfortable with Coleman being on the Duke faculty. “I hate that part of my tuition money has gone to pay her salary,” says Jarrett, who has avoided Coleman’s classes. ...

In an email, Coleman said she was reluctant to respond to the criticisms from students directed at her or Stock. “I don’t want to get into a fight with anyone about this,” she wrote. “Suffice it to say that I disagree with the characterization of the work, which reflects my view that transgender women are who they say they are and should be treated in life and in law with the same care and respect as everyone else.” Last year Coleman co-founded, along with the former tennis great Martina Navratilova, among others, the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, whose mission is to find middle ground in the debate over the participation of transgender women in sports.

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