Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A warrantless presumption

Good news out today, a U.S. District Court Judge upheld a former colleague's ruling on California's Prop 8. The federal judge ruled that there was no evidence the previous judge was prejudiced in the case. Those in favor of Prop 8 had raised questions about the judge's ability to impartially decide the controversial question of same-sex marriage due to his homosexuality.

To be fair, the exact argument was that should the judge 'ever might' want to marry his partner he had an 'interest that could be substantially affected by the outcome of the proceeding'. Of course it is another standard of independence that no one may be a judge in their own case or have a stake in the proceedings against before him.

I think that the main point of the ruling today is well summed up as follows: "The presumption that [the judge], by virtue of being in a same-sex relationship, had a desire to be married that rendered him incapable of making an impartial decision, is as warrantless as the presumption that a female judge is incapable of being impartial in a case in which women seek legal relief... On the contrary: it is reasonable to presume that a female judge or a judge in a same-sex relationship is capable of rising above any personal predisposition and deciding such a case on the merits."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Sexual Bias?

Interesting short article recently in The Atlantic.

The essence of the article is that California voters passed a referendum which limits marriage to heterosexual partners. This law (called Prop 8 as it was posed to voters in a mix of referendum items as Proposition 8) was been struck down by the judiciary as violating the due process and equal protection clauses under the constitution. Now those who support Prop 8 are challenging the judge's ruling on the grounds of bias - the judge in question is gay.

It has long been a standing principle that justice must not only be done but must be mainfestly seen to be done. Thus any hint or apperance of bias should be avoided. Yet in this case is one's sexuality enough to determine bias? Is it a given that if I am a homosexual, I would naturally be in favor of marriage rights for gays and lesbians? If one agrees with that statement and believes that the judge in this case should have excused himself for bias, I can not imagine how the counter claim can not be made with the same logic. A heterosexual judge would then by the same token found biased as well. According to this logic he would naturally be in favor of Prop 8 and want to keep a ban on homosexual marriage.

Perhaps we should call for a bisexual judge who can see both sides of the issue? Or a transsexual judge who is able to rise above it? I could go on but I think you get the point...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Guilty as charged

Finally a statement out from the University of London.

As suspected, this New College of the Humanities will be an independent teaching institution. They will have their students enroll in the University of London International Programmes. In addition to the yearly 1.5k quid that they must pay to the University of London, they will whack on an additional 16.5k for their value added services. It looks all above board and legitimate. A smart and easy way to start a school and piggy-back along on the University of London. A brilliant chance to access some of the best academics in the world. Indeed, there will be extra courses and the caliber of students is bound to be high. However over the course of three years I can imagine better ways to spend fifty thousand pounds...

Monday, June 6, 2011

Money maker

Interesting news out today in the form of the New College of the Humanities, an academically star-studded institution based in London due to open its doors to students in October 2012. Reports are that some of the world's most celebrated academics will join this institution focusing on undergraduate studies in the humanities. Apparently no longer able to resist the steady decline in the humanities, this band of brothers (and one sister) has come together in an attempt to save its place in the academic world. They have become so alarmed by funding cuts to education that they feel compelled to act to ensure access to the intellectual fires that forge truly exceptional individuals.

Impressed? So was I.

Oh and did I mention that fees are set to be 18,000 quid a year, double the maximum for other universities?

Less than impressed? Yeah, I felt that way also.

Oh and the degrees will be awarded via the University of London.

Yes, the same school that is charging its students such as myself on its International Programme just a wee bit over 1,000 pounds a year.

Even less impressed then you were before? Me too.

To be sure, one welcomes any attempt to improve education. Those academics who are involved in setting up the college have a huge amount to offer others. However given the price they plan to charge in order to pass their students through onto a degree which is already very open and accessible, it is as a disappointment. Even if it might be a money maker...