Ever wish your college course websites looked more like lad mags? No? Well, philosophy prof Vincent Hendricks apparently did, because he posed for pics with ladies in sexy schoolgirl outfits — and then splashed them all over the site for his spring logic class.
Feminist Philosophers broke the news of Hendricks's steamy shoot — he's since taken it down, but screenshots are here. Hendricks teaches at the University of Copenhagen (he also has a non-teaching appointment at Columbia), and Hey, lady! has a good breakdown of how his photo shoot might affect prospective students:
If you were a woman at Hendricks's university contemplating which courses to take and you looked at this course page, what you would think? Would you think that your professor would regard all students in the class as equally serious? As equally capable of doing logic? As equally deserving of respect? As equally likely to become future peers? And, if you tried to imagine your fellow classmates, what would come to mind? Animal House?
These are important questions not just because individual students deserve to pick courses without having to also look at cheesecake shots, but because women are already underrepresented in philosophy. Some women in philosophy have cited a climate that's subtly hostile to them — or, in this case, not subtly at all.
Hey, lady! also asks "What can [Hendricks] possibly be thinking?" Good question! His site at one point carried the note, "Pictures for 'Man of the Month', Connery Magazine, february 2012." Connery is a Danish online men's magazine — a lad mag, really — that features pictures of scantily-clad "babes" alongside articles about cars, restaurants, and George Clooney. So maybe Hendricks thought it would be funny to post his Connery shoot on his course webpage. This is a bad decision in itself, but it's also worth asking why he agreed to the photo shoot in the first place? Why would a prominent academic pose for a men's mag in a way that demeans his female students?
Maybe because he has bad judgment. That's what Brian Leiter says about Hendricks in a stinging recap of what philosophers call the Synthese scandal. Basically, Hendricks is co-editor-in-chief of the major philosophical journal Synthese. In 2010, they published a paper by a philosopher named Barbara Forrest arguing (persuasively, it sounds like) that intelligent design is bullshit. But then ID folks got mad at them. So they responded by telling Forrest that she needed to tone down and resubmit her paper, making it more "neutral" and allowing for things like the possible existence of miracles. Leiter wrote that by caving to ID crazies, Hendricks and his co-EIC had "betrayed a catastrophic failure of professional judgment, which has damaged the Guest Editors and all the contributors to their Special Issue; the cause of serious science education in the United States; as well as the integrity of Synthese."
So maybe Hendricks is just not all that good at knowing when something will damage his reputation as a serious philosopher. To his credit, he has apologized, posting the following message on his site:
To the Philosophical Community
Some recent pictures on my website have caused some debate. The intention was that the pictures, as a cover on a forthcoming magazine, might be used to view logic from a somewhat humorous and untraditional perspective appealing to larger audience which the magazine covers. However it had the opposite effect offending various parties in the philosophical community. I truly apologize for this and I stand completely corrected. I have removed the pictures from the website.
Why he thought the photo shoot was a good idea in the first place remains somewhat unclear. I've asked him, and await a response.