[Smt-talk] "Courteous Professional Discourse"

Charles J. Smith cjsmith at buffalo.edu
Wed Jul 25 14:37:09 PDT 2012

Nice post, Seth. I would like to hope that those who need to think  
about these issues will be motivated to do so, but bitter experience  
shows that those who need to reflect the most are perhaps immune to  
doing so.

I leave the question of blocking, banning, and the like to those in  
power in the society. But whether or not those extraordinary measures  
are taken, it might be helpful to point out that other consequences  
are already in play. Specifically, that this is a PUBLIC record. Even  
if you (unlike me, who never discards ANYTHING) don't save SMT  
postings, they are easily retrievable through the society website.

I, for one, just supervised one job search, and will soon (it is to be  
hoped) be participating in another. Standard practice for us now is  
when we get a short list of candidates is to do a little research on  
the SMT-Talk archives. It's a great place to find out how a candidate  
behaves professionally and collegially...or not. I also have some  
research projects in the works, and will likely be seeking participants 
—again after the same sort of basic research. Candidates who have  
behaved badly have actually seriously hampered their own chances, at  
least as far as we're concerned.

There is that mysterious illusion that, because we write emails in the  
privacy of our offices and studies, often with no witnesses other than  
the computer and the dog, that they are somehow private and that we  
are thereby free to behave without the constraints that we might feel  
in a faculty meeting or a paper session—something like the illusion  
that cell-phone conversations in a subway are somehow "private".  
They're not!

So I would remind everyone that you are speaking (or shouting or  
fulminating or...) in a forum that includes prospective employers and  
colleagues. Prudent people will behave accordingly...


> I’d like to second Dmitri’s concerns (see below). The Society’s  
> website stipulates that posts to this forum should “adhere to  
> standards of courteous professional discourse.” Much of what ends up  
> in my inbox lately falls rather short of this mark: persons  
> insinuating (repeatedly) that anyone who disagrees with them is  
> foolish, incompetent, or unmusical; sneering insults lobbed at  
> entire swathes of the discipline; gratuitous (and often off-topic)  
> negative stereotyping; smug pontification; bombastic axe-grinding;  
> and so on.
> Granted, all this comes from a *vanishingly* small, highly vocal  
> minority. But I find it disconcerting nonetheless. It’s not  
> “courteous,” it’s often only barely “professional” in content, and,  
> in its commitment to provoking dissent only to shout it down,  
> doesn’t strike me as the kind of “discourse” that this list was  
> meant to foster.
> Let this count as my vote for more stringent moderation and, if need  
> be, a greater empowering of the moderators. Emails not meeting a  
> basic level of civility should be blocked; posters who use this list  
> as a pulpit for hurling broad, self-aggrandizing disparagements  
> should be banned. Others may disagree, but I do not think we should  
> let bullies rule the roost out of a misplaced fear of curtailing the  
> “open exchange of ideas.” Are we really at the point where someone  
> will have to go to the trouble of creating a parallel list just so  
> colleagues can discuss and debate their ideas in a climate of mutual  
> respect?
> Regards,
> SM
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> Seth Monahan
> Assistant Professor of Music Theory
> Managing Editor, Theory and Practice
> Eastman School of Music
> 26 Gibbs St.
> Rochester, NY, 14604
> (585) 274-1556
> smonahan at esm.rochester.edu
> On Jul 15, 2012, at 3:04 PM, smt-talk-request at lists.societymusictheory.org 
>  wrote:
>> I just want to remind everyone that "Dmitri [Tymoczko]" and  
>> "Dimitar [Ninov]" are two entirely separate people -- one at  
>> Princeton, one at Texas.
>> I haven't been contributing to the list much, recently, because I  
>> worry that the level of discussion is deteriorating.  There seems  
>> to be a lot more shouting and a lot less scholarship than there was  
>> a few years ago.  It's gotten to the point where I've been  
>> contemplating starting a new list with a much more rigorous  
>> moderation policy.
>> DT
>> Dmitri Tymoczko
>> Professor of Music
>> 310 Woolworth Center
>> Princeton, NJ 08544-1007
>> (609) 258-4255 (ph), (609) 258-6793 (fax)
>> http://dmitri.tymoczko.com
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Charles J. Smith
Slee Chair of Music Theory & Chair of the Department
Department of Music, 220 Baird Hall
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260
716-645-0639 [direct line]
716-645-3824 [fax]
cjsmith at buffalo.edu

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