Photos on BU professor’s website cause stir
“If he wants to be an international arms dealer, there’s really nothing we can do about that—but don’t put that kind of thing on a course website”
The philosophy blogosphere erupted in protest this week over photographs posted by Boston University philosophy professor Ken Siegel on a website for his applied ethics course. The photographs depict Siegel posing with guns, explosives and even armored cars.
Clearly, Siegel isn’t your average university professor. He’s also an international arms dealer. While he can be found in Boston during the workweek, on most weekends Siegel flies to Central or South America to peddle small arms to gangs and paramilitary groups. The photos are apparently from a shoot Siegel did with Guns & Ammo magazine as part of their “Campus Heat” series.
His colleagues seem to have little patience for Siegel’s placing the photographs on a course website. “We’re worried that this is sending the wrong message to Professor Siegel’s students,” writes blogger Mia Casey. “That, unless they too are violating international arms trafficking conventions, they’ll be viewed merely as potential customers rather than taken seriously as students.”
“If my professor had done something like this when I was a student, I dare say I’d never have become a philosopher,” writes an anonymous commenter on Casey’s blog. “I’d probably have ended up an arms merchant instead.”
Asked why he placed the photographs on a course page, Siegel responds that his intention was to portray applied ethics in a new and challenging light. “This stuff is personal,” he explains. “It’s part of your life, ya’ know? I’m an arms dealer; my weapons kill thousands of innocent people every year. That’s something you have to wrestle with, to figure out whether it’s what you should really be doing.”