Talk:Melvin Tumin

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DYK nomination[edit]

Authors of this page may be interested to know that I have created Template:Did you know nominations/Melvin Tumin and listed it at Template talk:Did you know#Articles created/expanded on September 11. Yaris678 (talk) 12:45, 11 September 2012 (UTC)

Apparently the article is too short - 968 characters of prose (as measured by User:Dr pda/prosesize.js), below the 1500 minimum.
Can we expand the prose by 60%? Maybe say more about the incident that Roth alludes to?
Yaris678 (talk) 07:49, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
It would be better to expand his influence in his field. The Human Stain connection is relatively trivial per WP:UNDUE and not mentioned in his obits. That's all we need to say here about the novel. Jokestress (talk) 18:54, 12 September 2012 (UTC)
Well I think the fact that it wasn't mentioned in his obituaries is down to it not being publicly known at the time he died. It is arguably not undue. If you do a Google search on Tumin you will find lots of people (including respectable newspapers) talking about it.
Furthermore, if the event described by Roth happened then that would be quite an event in Tumin's life. For me the only issue is that if. All the sources that talk about the event stem from Roth's open letter. I can find no independent corroboration that the event even happened... which seems a bit strange... but then again, it could easily have been dealt with as an internal Princeton matter without anyone outside finding out, with the exception of a few friends of Tumin, who kept it to themselves, until Roth let the cat out of the bag. (Roth was a friend of Tumin)
Yaris678 (talk) 15:09, 14 September 2012 (UTC)
If the incident were notable, it would have been covered during Tumin's life. It was not. The only reason it's getting a lot of play is because the mainstream media always loves a story where Wikipedia is "wrong." Jokestress (talk) 20:07, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
If it wasn't known outside a small number of people in Princeton, how would it be reported on at the time? An expert in race relations getting investigated by his university for allegedly racist remarks is clearly worth mentioning. It has been reported on by many sources, even if the spin they chose to put on it was about Wikipedia being "wrong". Yaris678 (talk) 20:37, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
Any details should be at The Human Stain. Tumin was absolved of any wrongdoing, and including more than a sentence here saying The Human Stain was based on an incident in his life is WP:UNDUE and WP:NPOV. If he were alive, it would obviously be a BLP issue, and to let this offhand remark overshadow his life's work in this biography is not acceptable. Jokestress (talk) 20:46, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
I don't think any fair-minded person would read that and think ill of Tumin. Roth makes clear that he was innocent.
This is worth mentioning just because it was something big that Tumin had to deal with. It doesn't overshadow anything.
Yaris678 (talk) 21:08, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
40% of the current article is about the incident, so this version absolutely overshadows his actual accomplishments and is clrearly WP:UNDUE coverage. It merits a sentence at best. Jokestress (talk) 23:07, 23 September 2012 (UTC)
40% of that section... but I know what you mean. It seems disproportionate... but this reflects the sources to a certain extent. It is unfortunate that the sources relating to this event are more recent and hence more easy to access. I think the answer is to do some deeper research into his work. For example, can we say more about his work on race relations? I think we have probably discussed all aspects of this now and don't seem to be coming close to getting a consesus. I think requesting a third opinion could help. Yaris678 (talk) 07:40, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

Third opinion on "spooks" incident[edit]

Searchtool-80%.png Response to third opinion request:
Hi. Undue weight is a tricky subject. Our articles grow in spurts and lumps, and to require a strict balance at all times is difficult and damaging to the Wiki editing process that grows our articles organically. We require a stricter balance when it comes to living people or to disparaging material, as you both know. I don't think this particular anecdote is disparaging, as the implication is that the spooks comment was an innocent one, and that Tumin was eventually vindicated. I think there's probably a better way to present this than a large blockquote of source material, and it may turn out that rewritten encyclopedic prose is indeed smaller than the current section. I'd encourage Yaris to take the advice to try to expand the other sections of the article, rather than expanding this one further. This is especially true since Roth is not a particularly reliable source on the life of Tumin, though we have no reason to doubt his statements at this point, and I don't think the material should be removed on those grounds. Hope this helps. Gigs (talk) 13:38, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
Very helpful. Thank you. I will not expand that section further. (By ironic coincidence, I have just reverted an IP who expanded it with something I believe to be not relevant, to that section at least)
It may be that an encyclopedic paraphrasing is the best way to go. I couldn't think how to do it but I am happy for someone else to do it.
Yaris678 (talk) 16:46, 25 September 2012 (UTC)


Here is something else about Tumin that I think is important... but I am struggling to find secondary sources. He challenged the Davis-Moore hypothesis with his 1953 paper "Some principles of stratification: a critical analysis". Indeed, Tumin seems to be a big deal in terms of social stratification; his NYT obituary says his book "Social Stratification: The Forms and Functions of Inequality" was widely used as a textbook. Yaris678 (talk) 15:09, 14 September 2012 (UTC)

I think the entry in the Dictionary of Sociology gives us enough to know that his challenge to Davis-Moore is worth a mention. Yaris678 (talk) 17:22, 17 September 2012 (UTC)
Keep in mind you can use self published sources in accordance with WP:SELFPUB. This is pretty common on academic's articles. It's often abused IMO to establish notability where there is no secondary coverage, but since you've got plenty of secondary sources here, I don't see a problem if you need to use a little self published material to help you hit your DYK goal. Gigs (talk) 13:41, 25 September 2012 (UTC)
I assume you are referring to Tumin's paper. I would call it WP:PRIMARY, rather than WP:SELFPUB. It wasn't published by him, but he is the author. Your general point holds: We need secondary sources too. Fortunately we have them - the Sociology Dictionary and the New York Times obituary. Yaris678 (talk) 16:57, 25 September 2012 (UTC)

Section name of "spooks" incident[edit]

I have reverted the renaming of a section by Jokestress. But I am happy to discuss it here.

My thought on this is that the things that happened in Tumin's life are the first concern of this article. The fact that it inspired Roth is interesting... but the incident comes first.

Yaris678 (talk) 09:43, 28 September 2012 (UTC)

The incident would not be notable were it not a Trivial Pursuit answer. The current subhead is all on you, and is solely your doing. I hope your own life's work is not someday reduced to an unpleasant anecdote which overshadows your real work. I'd hate to see your entire life's efforts reduced to your actions here right now, as an example. If someone were writing your obituary, I'd hope it didn't say "User:Yaris678: Key Figure in Promoting Problematic Trivia abut Sociologist Melvin Tumin." It would be unfortunate if your behavior here were a significant focus of the piece.
Would you care to take this to dispute resolution? Jokestress (talk) 10:04, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
Do you mean the Wikipedia:Dispute resolution noticeboard? Sure. Why not?
Are you going to ask them about the content of the section, which has already had a third opinion given on it, or just the name of the section?
Yaris678 (talk) 10:42, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
The report is now live at Wikipedia:Dispute_resolution_noticeboard#Melvin_Tumin. Thanks! Jokestress (talk) 18:55, 28 September 2012 (UTC)
Since you did not respond at the DR/N, I have made revisions per WP:BRD. Comments welcome. Jokestress (talk) 23:35, 29 September 2012 (UTC)

Did not respond? I've been off wiki for two days and now I find that it has been tagged for archive. Having said that, Amadscientist, below obviously thinks we should discuss it further here first.

I am happy with the paraphrasing you have done, but:

  • I have added in some parentheses.
  • I have highlighted the nature of the inquiry that Tumin was subjected too. I believe that is the main reason that the thing is worth mentioning.
  • I am still not happy with the title of the section. As I said, the fact that it inspired Roth is interesting, but the really interesting thing is the fact that he was subject to the "witch hunt". To my way of looking at it, Tumin didn't inspire the book with his own actions (although obviously a few words were taken from him, according to Roth), it was the moral panic of those around him that inspired the book.

Yaris678 (talk) 21:30, 30 September 2012 (UTC)

Your changes are good. Regarding title, the incident itself is not notable and in fact seems unfortunately quite common at schools and businesses these days. What makes it notable is that it inspired the novel. Were it not for that, the incident probably would have been lost to the mists of time. If the incident itself were notable, it would have received coverage at the time it happened. The subhead title should reflect the reason for its notability. Jokestress (talk) 21:53, 30 September 2012 (UTC)
Well that's good. We seem to be agreeing on the content of the section. It's just the title of the section we disagree on.
I don't really know where to go with the title of the section. I am not massively attached to the name 'The "Spooks" incident' but I feel that 'Inspiration for The Human Stain' misses the point. I don't really know where to take this discussion now. We are stuck halfway up Graham's Hierarchy of Disagreement. We are attempting to provide counter arguments to each other's arguments... but then all we can really do is contradict each other's arguments.
Maybe there is some other section title that makes sense to both of us... but I can't think what it is.
Yaris678 (talk) 09:14, 1 October 2012 (UTC)
The "spooks" incident does not make any sense as a standalone. If that's all someone has to go on, it does not explain the significance. Inspiration for 'The Human Stain' explains the significance. If it's an answer to the question, What is Melvin Tumin newly famous for? "The spooks incident" doesn't make sense and isn't really true. He's newly famous as inspiration for The Human Stain. Jokestress (talk) 09:38, 1 October 2012 (UTC)

Latest developments[edit]

  • A while ago, I requested a third opinion on the issue of the name of the section. This has now been removed from the list as stale
  • These edits by Parkwells have moved the section to below the bibliography (in contravention of WP:ORDER). They also make it look like the investigation by the university was a logical consequence of Tumin's use of the word "Spooks". Whereas before it said 'Unknown to Tumin, both students were African-American, and spooks can be a racial slur for black people (in addition to meaning ghosts or spies). Tumin was subjected to an inquiry into possible hate speech, described by Roth as a "witch hunt".' it now says 'Unknown to Tumin, both students were African American. As spooks can be a racial slur for black people (in addition to meaning ghosts or spies), Tumin was subjected by the university to an inquiry into possible hate speech, described by Roth as a "witch hunt".'

Yaris678 (talk) 07:47, 16 October 2012 (UTC)


Hello, I am Amadscientist. I am a volunteer at Wikipedia:Dispute resolution noticeboard. There does not appear to be extensive discussion here on the talk page which is a criteria before advancing to DR/N. Could you continue to discuss the content dispute here and see if a middle ground could be achieved first. If, after some discussion and you still have not come to a compromise or consensus both editors can live with, feel free to file again if you still feel it necessary.--Amadscientist (talk) 13:59, 29 September 2012 (UTC)