The Colorado report: beyond the cheerleading [with new addendum – Feb. 7]

As I presume everyone has heard by now, the American Philosophical Association’s Committee for the Status of Women was recently invited to send a site visit team to the University of Colorado-Boulder’s philosophy department. The committee’s intensely negative report(, containing some fairly radical recommendations, was handed to the UC administration following the site visit. Shortly thereafter, the administration released the full report to the media, announcing it was immediately instituting most of the report’s recommendations, including the ousting of the chair and his replacement by a hand-picked non-member of the department. (If you’d like to enjoy a pleasant moment of cheerleading for the committee members before thinking critically about the implications of the report, Jon Cogburn of NewAPPS has provided a happy song for the occasion here:
We’ve since learned that the report’s scathing description of the departmental culture in Colorado may bear little resemblance to the reality:
I applaud the move to end sexual harassment seriously in the discipline. However, there are many ways in which the APA committee’s report seems extremely problematic. While I don’t know the nature of the alleged harassment or alleged inappropriate sexualization at Colorado, I find it very hard to believe that many of the report’s recommendations are necessary to prevent such behavior even if the report were factually accurate. Following those recommendations will, however, almost certainly damage the department and put it under the control of the administration in precisely the way Benjamin Ginsberg has warned us about in his must-read book, _The Fall of the Faculty_.. In particular:
1. The report is overtly hostile to the dialectical/democractic model and demands that it be replaced with blatant dictatorship. The department is told to “[d]issolve all departmental listservs. Emails should be used for announcements only, as one-way, purely informational, communication. Any replies need to be made in person” (p.6). Since the department chair has now been ousted and replaced at the administration’s discretion for an indefinite period with no apparent opportunity for review at any point in the future (as urged by the report), this effectively cedes all departmental autonomy, in perpetuity, to the administration. There will be no clear avenues for discussion or dissent, and the restrictions on department members meeting outside of working hours helps to limit the ability of any faculty or students in the department to formulate dissenting views together: they may not meet to do so in the evenings or on weekends, and they may not do so via email.  Moreover, the very act of reasoning or deliberating about policy is taken by the report as a sign of inappropriate resistance, according to the anti-philosophical views of the report (“Their faculty discussions… spend too much time articulating (or trying to articulate) the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior… they spend significant time debating footnotes and “what if” scenarios…” – p.7)
2. The report uses terms like ‘family friendly’ in bizarre ways to restrict productive and innocuous department activities whose elimination would significantly harm collegiality, departmental morale and the learning experience of graduate students. In a ‘Special Note’ on p.12, the report discusses and prohibits the department’s planned spring retreat. This retreat was to involve a combination of philosophical talks and ‘unscheduled time’ in a scenic mountain area over a weekend. It is difficult for me at least to imagine an event I would more like to bring my children to — what family wouldn’t love some unscheduled time outdoors in a beautiful natural area? But bizarrely enough, the very fact that this event was to take place on the weekend makes it “an examplar for a family-unfriendly event,” according to the report. The justification for this absurd claim is that “Under no circumstances should this department (or any other) be organizing the social calendars of its members.”
3. The report claims that no philosophy department should, under any circumstances, ask its members to attend events outside of the hours of 9-5, Monday to Friday. On p.12 of the report, we are told that “If there are going to be social events, then they need to be managed such that members of the department can opt out easily and without any penalty. (Please note that best practices for family-friendly speaker events include taking the speaker out to lunch instead of dinner so that participants may have their evenings free to attend to other obligations)”. In particular, we are told that “all events, including retreats, need to be held during business hours (9-5) and on campus or near campus in public venues.”. Please try to imagine what departmental life would be like under such a rule.
4. The report categorically prohibits all critical discussion of feminist philosophy by all members of the department, even in a private, off-campus conversation between two graduate or undergraduate students. “Realize that there is plurality in the discipline.  If some department members have a problem with people doing non-­‐feminist philosophy or doing feminist philosophy (or being engaged in any other sort of intellectual or other type of pursuit), they should gain more appreciation of and tolerance for plurality in the discipline.  Even if they are unable to reach a level of appreciation for other approaches to the discipline, it is totally unacceptable for them to denigrate these approaches in front of faculty, graduate or undergraduate students, in formal or informal settings on or off campus.”
5. The report relies in part on clearly biased survey findings. On p.15, for instance, we find that subjects were asked whether they agree or disagree with the following statement: “I am confident that if I were to raise a complaint about sexual harassment or discrimination, the judicial process at my university would be fair.” 38% of respondents felt confident about this, which seems very high for any department! Most members of most departments would have no good grounds for confidence either way. Why doesn’t the survey ask instead whether subjects are confident that the process would be unfair? More tellingly, why doesn’t it simply ask whether subjects agree or disagree with the statement, “If I were to raise a complaint about sexual harassment or discrimination, the judicial process would be fair,” and allow the responses ‘Agree’, ‘Disagree’ and ‘Not sure’? Particularly among philosophers, ‘confident’ entails a very high epistemic standard. While it isn’t clear whether the committee intended to skew the results by asking such questions or whether they simply didn’t take care to prepare a fair survey, the survey is misleading at best and politically motivated at worst.
6. The report mentions, and then completely ignores, very serious graduate student concerns about damage to the department’s reputation; and in the process, it reduces the likelihood of future reporting of sexual harassment. “They [some graduate students] are worried that they will be tainted by the national reputation of the department as being hostile to women.” (pp.3-4). As a result of this, it was essential for the report to take steps to ensure that word about the department’s problems be carefully managed while steps are taken to eliminate the problem. At the very least, the report needed to ensure that the release of the report not be made into a worldwide media event. However, the report contains nothing of the sort and, as a result, the worst fears of the graduate students have now been realized (I, for one, had never heard a single negative thing about this department). This merits serious attention: if the price of reporting sexual harrassment is the destruction of one’s department’s reputation worldwide and the blackening of one’s own name by association with it, how many departmental members (student or faculty) would ever take the suicidal step of reporting it? By mindlessly neglecting these concerns, the committee’s report has surely had a dampening effect on reports of sexual harassment in departments around the world.
7. The report’s standards of ‘family friendliness’, while tangentially connected with sexual harassment, show a complete lack of understanding of philosophical work and culture. On p.6 of the report, the committee’s view on best practices is expanded upon: we are told that “[e]vents should be held during normal business hours (9-5) and should be such that you would feel comfortable with your children or parents being present.” Indeed, as we are told on p.12, children should be positively welcome at departmental events. I’m not concerned here with the disruptions that would be caused by young children at colloquia, but rather with how this might affect the content of philosophical talks. I, for one, would not feel comfortable discussing abortion, circumcision, sexual harassment and rape, cruelty to animals, pornography, torture, or the existence of God in front of someone else’s children. Should it follow from this that I should not present a colloquium paper on such a topic? What if my philosophical work deals entirely with such issues: should I never present my philosophical work in an open forum?

While we should all applaud genuine, careful and viable efforts to eliminate sexual harassment, my view (unless persuaded otherwise) is that we should certainly not endorse the actions of this committee. Instead, I think, we should quickly work out ways to prevent this from ever happening again. But I anticipate disagreement and would love to hear and engage opposing reasons.

Addendum: My position here has been attacked on a couple of blogs due to a misreading of 3 — some readers mistakenly think that I am opposed to the restrictions on non-business hours activities because they are too harsh a punishment for the harassers. But that’s not my objection at all. I agree that sexual harassment, which we know has been substantiated in at least two cases at Colorado, should be dealt with seriously. But the restrictions advocated by the report don’t seem to be intended punitively. They appear to be intended as a preventative measure.

Now, I don’t deny that having such restrictions in place might work. And that would be a good thing. But there are also other, surer ways of preventing sexual harassment. Here’s a fairly sure-fire one: members of the department may only communicate in person, during official classes or meetings or office hours. All these events must be attended by trained anti-harassment officers, and all communication must be done through them (you have to whisper your words to the officers and, if they’re appropriate, they report them to your audience). All students and faculty are prohibited on pain of expulsion/automatic firing from coming within 20 yards of all other department members outside of class, and this is monitored by temporarily bio-implanted GPS devices. And so on.

I would agree that such extreme measures would be very effective in curbing sexual harassment. And no doubt, the case might convincingly be made that good philosophical work could be done under those conditions. But I would nevertheless be opposed to them, and not just for reasons of expense.

I take a similar view to the much less extreme measures recommended by the report (I emphasize this to ensure that no sincere reader will think I am saying that the report is as extreme as the counterfactual scenario I’m using to illustrate my point). Yes, they would probably prevent some potential harassment; yes, it might still be possible to do philosophy within those confines (and some department members might even like it). And I can vaguely imagine some extraordinary conditions in which I might even advocate what the report recommends. But from the picture I’m getting, it’s difficult to imagine that the measures are warranted as a professional measure. I invite the chance to stand corrected if I’m wrong about this.

28 thoughts on “The Colorado report: beyond the cheerleading [with new addendum – Feb. 7]

  1. I didn’t read the recommendations in the report as saying what “no philosophy department should, under any circumstances” do, but rather what this department, in particular, should not do, given various circumstances alluded to but not made explicit in the report. Having said that, I work somewhere where all departmental events, including retreats, are held between 9 and 5, at venues on campus or near campus in public venues, and so I can imagine it quite well. It’s great!

    • I’m grateful for your critical view, Geoff.

      At first, I also didn’t read the recommendations that way. However, there are a couple of points where the report makes explicit that at least some of them are meant generally. For instance: in reference to whether the department should have a weekend retreat, the report says “Under no circumstances should this department (or any other) be organizing the social calendars of its members.” (p.12). And as I noted in the OP, the report goes on to say that “best practices” entail that speakers should be taken to lunch rather than dinner so that everyone can leave by 5pm to go home.

      You say that your department has “all department events, including retreats” between 9 to 5 and on or near campus (I’m not really sure how anything like that can be a retreat, but OK!). And you say it’s great. I won’t contest your appraisal: we’re all entitled to our own views. My department has a much more extensive set of philosophical events, and many of us much prefer that; but to each his or her own.

      But the mere fact that some people who don’t X are perfectly happy without X-ing is not a justification for recommending that nobody else be permitted to X and suggesting that those who do are acting inappropriately. I, personally, would not be attracted to a department in which weekend symposia, dinners with visiting speakers, extracurricular student-led events, and departmental outings were frowned upon or prohibited. It’s the ability to immerse myself in philosophical activity outside of the classroom when I want to that makes a department exciting to me, and I’ll need to be shown very good reasons for thinking that it’s better not to have these things.

      • Just to clarify: I wasn’t saying that I work somewhere that frowns upon or prohibits the doing of philosophy at any time except for M-F 9-5. People are perfectly free to have reading groups that meet whenever they like, hang out with each other on the weekends, get together for “outings”, etc. etc. etc. By “departmental events” I meant departmentally-sponsored and hence (for faculty and graduate students) quasi-obligatory events like colloquia, meetings, end-of-the-year-parties, and so on. The idea that only scheduling departmental events during the workday curtails “philosophical activity outside of the classroom” seems strange to me — there’s a ton of philosophical activity outside the classroom here.

      • LOL yes on the “retreat” thing — no, something that involves being in a conference room for eight hours during the workday is definitely not really a retreat. Unfortunately that word has been co-opted by managerial types to mean just that, and that’s always how I interpret it in these contexts.

  2. Excellent analysis. I, too, was confused by the severity of the recommendations in response to what appear to be fairly manner instances of incivility or inconvenience. Perhaps there was more to this situation than has been reported, but this seems strange.

  3. Why don’t you confine your lucubrations to “patrolling the boundary between sense and nonsense” and “conceptual analysis” instead of pronouncing on empirical questions of the efficacy of proposals to minimize sexual harrasment–questions for which you lack experience and expertise. Correct me if I am wrong and point me to your peer-reviewed work on these non-philosophical questions.

    • Crying Philopaster,

      Are you saying that only those who have published peer-reviewed work on the efficacy of proposals to minimize sexual harassment may rightly comment on anyone’s attempts to do so?

      By all means, please point us in the direction of some good empirical findings on the efficacy of various proposals. If you can provide good evidence that the report’s recommendations are the best option, I’d love to hear it.

      • It is clear that you don’t have substantive, specific recommendations. There is no citation of the literature, and you expect others to do your homework for you. You haven’t provided any evidence against the recommendations. Your method is unscientific, ungrounded in fact. You don’t even have methodological advice to offer. And you’re silly: one might provide evidence that the recommendations are good enough, if not optimal. Who argued that the recommendations are the “best”? Are you even capable of discussing a single subject without introducing extraneous cognitive load?

      • Hi Crying Philosophaster,

        You seem to be missing the point. This is an occasion to converse with and educate ourselves about the impact of the APA’s committee on Colorado’s future. If you have something to add to that conversation, why don’t you do so? Accusing Showalter of not doing something you want him to is what’s silly here. Take part in the conversation, or don’t. But don’t be threatened by the fact that it’s not occurring in the way you’d like it to. If you’d like to see a different tack taken, by all means, suggest one and have at it! If nothing else, I think the people who are conversing here seem willing to consider alternative views.

      • Crying Philophaster,

        You raise a number of objections in your 1:05 comment. You ask who argued that the recommendations in the report are the ‘best’. The term ‘best practices’ is actually introduced into this discussion by the report itself (see p.12), but let’s not quibble about that. The report’s recommendations should be adopted, I agree, if they are better than the reasonable alternatives (but not necessarily if they are equally good as some alternatives, since the recommendations seem to carry costs that might not be borne by those equal alternatives).

        More important, though, you raise a number of related criticisms that my comments fail to meet the necessary standard for a critique. According to your view of the correct standards, it seems, any fair critique must
        a) make substantive, specific recommendations;
        b) cite the literature;
        c) provide evidence against that which is critiqued;
        d) be scientific and grounded in fact;
        e) offer methodological advice; and
        f) not be silly.

        By your standard, your own critique of my critique should have those six properties. And yet I don’t see that it does; and to assume that I should charitably supply these deficiencies is to expect me to do your homework for you, which you also imply is a defect in a critique.

  4. Thank you for this post, I share many of your observations. I suppose that a lot of people will disagree with you, but hopefully even those people will agree that this debate should be kept open and no-one should be discouraged from expressing their views.

  5. “The Site Visit Report is the result of a two-day visit to the Department, conducted in Fall 2013, by a group of three external evaluators. The Department itself requested this visit—indeed, the faculty voted unanimously to do so—and at the time we took some pride in being the first program in the country to be visited by the newly-formed Site Visit Program. Among the many other measures we have undertaken over the last three years are the creation of a climate committee, two climate surveys, a department symposium on Inclusion in Philosophy (with two outside speakers), and a series of detailed resolutions, including a code of conduct, which the faculty voted to adopt and pledged to adhere to. We have also, as a faculty, been aggressive in reporting all known claims of harassment to the Office of Discrimination and Harassment, and we have repeatedly urged our students to do the same. These votes and actions over the last two years show that a large majority of the department are strongly committed to the highest professional and ethical standards, and have also taken steps to improve the culture of the department and its climate. We are determined to make this a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place for men and women alike to work, teach and study.”

    Am I the only one who finds the above a bit over the top? The above description makes it seem like UC has unwittingly created an environment where the preoccupation of the possibility of harassment has turned into sheer phobia, inspiring a trigger-happy mentality among its members? Should it be any surprise sexual harassment claims are filed in such an environment? It seems analogous to the over-eager undergrad who, having just taken an intro logic class, thinks a fallacy is lurking behind almost everything.

  6. Mark my words, this case will be Duke Lacrosse all over again. The only specific incident of Sexual Harassment mentioned in the report involved “ogling,” and even that seems to have occurred at an off campus party. Their response? “Trust us” All the grad students who had their lives delayed by a year have to just trust the administration? Yeah right.

    • Thanks for your comment, Ben.

      You mention that the ‘ogling’ occurred at an off-campus party. Do you have a source on that, please? I don’t want to be out of the loop! In particular, does your source make clear what the alleged ogling entailed? As someone mentioned on the Smoker yesterday, that seems to be significant. If it was merely someone’s impression that someone else was looking at a third person, there could be an innocent explanation for it. On the other hand, if it’s a confirmed case of, say, a faculty member leering at a student after (s)he told the faculty member to leave her alone, then that’s clearly inappropriate conduct whether on or off-campus.

      As for the generality of the harassment claims in the report, I’m inclined to believe (unless shown otherwise) that at least some of them dealt with something more serious than a subject-to-interpretation accusation of ogling. We do know that the department was facing some problems with the administration owing to two substantiated harassment charges before the site visit team was called in, and I don’t know how they would have been substantiated if they weren’t fairly serious.

      • I’ve read the report (and blogged about it), ogling is the only specific allegation I found. The report mentions fifteen allegations of sexual harassment, but doesn’t mention whether they had merit, and doesn’t go into details. Now if the school, and the APA’s committee, want to hold the department guilty of maintaining a hostile environment (albeit one that doesn’t rise to the level of being lawsuit worthy), they need some more specifics.

        As for what they mean by ogling your guess is as good as mine, could be innocent, could be some drunken faculty members leering at students, we don’t know. Even assuming the worst, if that is the only incident of bad behavior CU-Boulder has a faculty of saints.

      • Thanks, Ben. But what’s your source on the ogling happening at an off-campus party, please?

        Like you, I would have appreciated some specific examples of the kinds of things that were happening: not specific accusations, but something of the form ‘The university’s investigation into two harassment accusations found that one/two faculty members propositioned/groped/demeaned/etc. their students; and X many students/faculty/staff members in the department alleged that they have witnessed/undergone instances of ________________.” I understand the need for discretion in these reports, but I don’t see why details of that level of specificity would compromise confidentiality.

        That said, Ben, I must protest that “drunken faculty members leering at students” would be sufficient to disqualify the department for sainthood.

  7. Lphilosopher,

    “Thanks, Ben. But what’s your source on the ogling happening at an off-campus party, please?”

    I inferred it from the context, but the report did not explicitly state where it occurred.

    “That said, Ben, I must protest that “drunken faculty members leering at students” would be sufficient to disqualify the department for sainthood.”

    Oh for crying out loud, if drunkenly leering at someone is the worst thing you’ve ever done I don’t think you have to worry about the afterlife. Yes, I’ve received unwanted sexual attention (from men and women), it’s not that big a deal; it’s a little awkward, BFD. In the case of faculty and students their could be a coercion issue, but on its own I don’t think ogling is a big deal. I do, however, believe that feminists who complain about “the male gaze” have a level of discomfort with human sexuality resembling a redneck experiencing a gay panic.

    • Hi again, Ben.

      You say that receiving unwanted sexual attention isn’t that big a deal. In some contexts I’d be inclined to agree with you; but we are told in this case that it was a faculty member ogling a student. Are you saying that _that_ isn’t a big deal? Then I disagree, at least in the ‘at worst’ sense of ogling that you and I were discussing. And my reasons don’t have to do with a feministic complaint about ‘the male gaze’, which I think I may share your doubts about depending on what it’s meant to refer to.

      Considering a range of possible oglings from mildest to most serious:

      1) Professor Y is daydreaming and his eyes happen to be oriented toward the staircase, but they are unfocused and he isn’t even thinking about what’s in front of him. Student Z enters the scene and climbs the stairs without Professor Y consciously noticing this. Observer W sees this and mistakenly attributes lewd thoughts to Professor Y, but Professor Y never had these thoughts and never notices, or is embarrassed upon noticing, what this may have looked like to W. No blame at all there, I agree.

      2) Professor Y is interacting with Student Z, who is dressed in a way that Professor Y finds alluring or at least provocative. But Professor Y does not want to be drawn into such thoughts, and resolves to look Student Z dead in the eye and maintain an absolutely professional level of interaction. Nonetheless, Professor Y’s eyes dart for a moment toward Student Z’s body despite his best efforts. Professor Y catches and corrects himself immediately, and regrets the lapse. In this case, it would have been _better_ if Professor Y hadn’t done this, but there is no good basis for _blaming_ Professor Y.

      3) Professor Y finds Student Z very attractive, and when she comes into the classroom he openly fixes his eyes on her body and doesn’t let up for a minute. This is bad because, in doing it, he indicates to all the students that he regards some of them as (among other things) eye candy. And this brings in to the classroom dynamic a number of unwelcome elements. Suddenly, the students whom Professor Y doesn’t seem to find ogle-worthy have to wonder whether they will be at an unfair disadvantage in grading, etc.; students who, either because they’re romantically involved with someone else or because they just happen not to be sexually interested in Professor Y, now must wonder whether they also will be ogled; these considerations force all the female students (assuming that his ogling is always directed at women) to ask themselves what they think of Professor Y as a sexual being rather than just as a thinker and a teacher, which they may really not wish to do; the students who do get ogled may come to suspect that they are only getting the grades they are because of their sex appeal; that in turn might lead students to think that they can get ahead if they present themselves sexually to Professor Y and that they might lose points if they don’t; Student Z might find it a form of infidelity to her lover (if she has one) to continue to serve as an instrument of gratification to Professor Y; and so on.

      4) Professor Y meets Student Z in private (during office hours or off-campus, say) and starts staring at her intently, moaning in ecstasy, and so on. This makes Student Z very uncomfortable, and she asks Professor Y to stop it. But he keeps it up. It’s not hard to imagine that Student Z would, as a result, feel compelled to break off the meeting, stop interacting with Professor Y, dread coming to the department or to departmental events, and perhaps even drop out of her program. None of these steps would seem irrational, if he couldn’t be made to stop doing that. And pretty obviously, it seems to me, this means that Professor Y’s ogling Student Z in _that_ sense would be tantamount to pressuring a student out of her program of study.

      If the ogling mentioned in the report is something like 1) or 2), then I think it’s no big deal. If it’s something like 3) or 4), I think it’s a big deal and needs to stop.

  8. LP,

    Sure the term ogling could refer to some truly reprehensible behavior, or it could refer to something harmless, we don’t know. I find the latter a much more realistic possibility.

    1. I think schools would be disinclined to risk a lawsuit in order to protect obnoxious and creepy behavior.

    2. Universities are dominated by people who have a, quite frankly, extravagant sympathy for women and minorities; I think such people would be doubly disinclined to risk a lawsuit.

    Allowing for an absolute dearth of information, I think what we know about universities makes it extremely unlikely that the “ogling” referred to involved the type of horrific behavior you described.

    • Hi Ben,

      I continue to think we just don’t have enough information to know either way.

      1. Yes, schools would be disinclined to risk a lawsuit to protect obnoxious and creepy behavior. But why think the university was protecting whatever behavior took place? There were two findings of sexual harassment, they were considering shutting down the department, they’ve replaced the chair, they’ve released a statement… this doesn’t seem like ‘protecting the department’ or the behavior of any members to me.

      2. Even if, as you say, universities (all universities? All departments in all universities?) are dominated by people whose sympathy for women and minorities is extravagant, I don’t see that domination as reason for doubting that _someone_ was guilty of the worse kinds of ogling I mentioned. People do all kinds of things.

      Keep in mind that I’m not saying this happened, or was likely to have happened; just that I don’t see that we have any good reason to judge whether it did or didn’t happen. There are all kinds of people in this world, and the same goes for universities.

      • LP,

        If the situation is so bad, why didn’t they sue? If Colorado maintained a hostile environment, as the critics allege, then a legal victory would be a slam dunk. Lawyers uninterested in money? CU-Boulder not deep pocketed enough? Yeah right.

        If there really was a hostile environment, (and not one or two pervs appropriately disciplined internally), there would have been a lawsuit; there was no lawsuit, ergo the hostile environment charge is almost certainly bull.

        -Ben Cohen

  9. I am a young philosopher in Europe. I have to say what happened to Colorado is…well it looks incredible to me. I read the report, but it is not clear to me exactly what happened. From how things stand and for what they have recommended, it seems like the department was running a collective conspiracy in favor of sexual harassment… otherwise, how can one explain the incredible nature of the recommendations? Can two incidents, by at most 2 staff members I suppose, warrant something like this? What about all those who have worked hard for years and maybe decades to grow the department? What about the reputation of these persons?

    The more I read about how these situations are reported, the more I feel uncomfortable with the level of naming and shaming that occurs about these things. Naming and shaming that often, almost always, occurs without clear understanding or knowledge of the specifics of the situation. Naming and shaming that judges people’s lives sometime attributing collective guilt with an ease and comfort which I find breathtaking.

    Sometime I also wonder about which use we want to make of moral codes and ideas. And I wonder whether things such as mercy and compassion, should apply, in any way, even to those who are guilty and have made mistakes. How much should one be punished for ‘ogling’? Should they be fired, should they be vilified in public for their behavior? Or should they be asked to stop and invited to consider the effects of their behavior on others? Do ‘oglers’ deserve a second chance or should we end their careers?

    I sometime feel like the battle for ending inappropriate uses of power is turning the topic into a sort of Manichean game where it is perfectly easy to see the good people and the bad guys. I am very happy for those who find it easy to see persons this way. I see them as fragile, and sometime weak. I see them as sometime ending a broken marriage, sometime looking at those they love who are dying and perhaps taking care of a sick child while having to juggle 100 things; and of course, at times, as plain and simply wrong about how to behave. Of course we should not sit and wait, nor simply watch while things we deem inappropriate take place, but to be monolithic and harsh about our moral judgments…well I am not sure is a good thing.

    Finally, I am also pretty uncomfortable with the level of uniformity that the reports seems to recommend: should departmental codes really tell people how to think about different approaches to philosophy? Really? I thought that doing philosophy was about finding out for yourself what you thought about philosophy, not to delegate to the departmental code…So I can’t say to a colleague that game theory uses of Hobbes are bad? That some French philosophy sounds like nonsense to me? And that I have no particular interest in feminist philosophy?

  10. I’m a PhD student in the UK, and the prospect that this could happen at my department is terrifying. Not that my department is a department of saints, but according to this, for example, the weekly post-graduate only WIP talks would be inappropriate, because they happen after 5pm. Why do they happen then? Because many of us need the day time to work, either as researchers or to pay our fees and living costs, and taking the hour or 90 minutes to attend a talk out of our day would be a significant intrusion. They are often followed by informal discussion in the local pub, but then again, so is a day in the study rooms of the graduate school – we’re students, many of us (not me, but many) UK-locals, and a trip to the pub is a normal post-work event. Further, taking a visiting speaker to dinner just seems like ordinary politeness – they may have come from very far afield, and may well be alone in the city, to simply say at 5 “alright, working day is over, you’re on your own” instead of offering the hospitality of the department seems rude. I have visited cities for PG open days while I was applying for PhD positions, and being in a strange city on your own for the night is a very lonely and unpleasant experience.

    This concept of the protection of plurality seems to have gone from a valid place (it is inappropriate for a member of staff to denigrate a student’s interests because of some factional issue, and it is unprofessional as philosophers to engage in baseless and uninformed criticism) to a wildly wrong place (if you tell me you think I am wrong, then you have breached my professional dignity and rights. Only those who agree with me can tell me I am wrong.)

    What is most troubling is that UC Boulder seems to have been making quite remarkable attempts to solve their problems – they recognised that there was a problem, set out to solve it in many ways, invited in outside experts… and then found that the result of that last action was a purge.

  11. I agree with the general drift here. However the situation in many (not all!) European philosophy departments can be pretty bad for women, as the general attitude is very critical toward the idea of even addressing the situation, never mind taking steps to improve it. See for example:

    It is a terrible shame if the overzealousness of the Site Visit Report should set European women philosophers back.

    • I completely agree. I was lucky enough never to witness anything remotely this bad. I just wonder whether the colorado recs will help at all. To me they seem so draconian that they are unproductive.

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