How the site visit team was invited to Colorado: the scoop from Professor Tooley

Michael Tooley’s insider’s look at the site visit team’s stint at Colorado has provoked some good discussions, but it has also left some questions unanswered. Two in particular have appeared repeatedly in online comments:

1) ‘If the department didn’t have a rampant sexual harassment problem, then why was the site visit team sent or invited in?’

2) ‘If there was sexual harassment going on in the department, then anyone working there who didn’t work to resolve the situation before the site visit is guilty of enabling it… right?’

Professor Tooley has kindly answered these questions for me by supplying some background details, and he has permitted me to publish some of those details here. It seems that virtually all the department members were unaware of any problems in the department up to the point when the provost had a rather intense meeting with some department members on the subject. I note that this is the same provost who made headlines only a few months ago for his apparent hounding of beloved sociology professor Patti Adler in cooperation with the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH): http://www.dailycamera.com/cu-news/ci_24913312/last-waltz-cus-patti-adler-returns-mdash-but?source=pkg . Professor Adler claims that her investigation and treatment at the hands of the ODH and provost in response to a report they received has pressured her into an early retirement.

As Professor Tooley has explained to me, the proximate cause of the provost’s deciding to meet with some members of the philosophy department was another incident that had been reported to ODH, which raised the number of reports connected with the philosophy department to a total of 15 since 2007.  Some of those reports were just reports, rather than officially lodged complaints.  Of those that were complaints, probably about four resulted in a formal investigation, with the rest being dealt with informally. Finally, of those complaints that did result in a formal investigation, it appears that only two involved a charge of sexual harassment, both of them against the same person.

Nevertheless, the Provost, based in part on comparisons with other departments, thought that the number 15 was too high, and so he met with some members of the Philosophy Department, and there he strongly expressed his unhappiness. That there had been 15 reports to ODG since 2007 concerning members of the department was, of course, news to virtually everyone present, since given the very strict rules surrounding confidentiality, there was no way members of the department could have access to that information.

While Provost Moore had access to ODH files, he did not provide the department with any further information about the 15 cases – such as, for example, how many involved sexual harassment, as opposed to much less serious complaints, or the number of different people named in the 15 reports. What the Provost did do at that meeting was to make it very clear that, if the department did not immediately find some way of dealing with the problem, despite the lack of information, there would be trouble, though he was not specific about what form that would take. At a later point, however, as we know from an interview with Graeme Forbes published in the Daily Camera, the Provost made clear that he might even find it necessary to close down the department completely if he was not satisfied with the steps the department took to correct the situation.

So now, the department was scrambling for some way to deal immediately with an alleged problem that was news to more or less everyone and only vaguely described by the provost, with little information for the department to go on about what the problem even was, who was involved, what sorts of alleged misdeeds were involved, and so on. Moreover, its details could not be obtained by the department members owing to the high degree of confidentiality surrounding the reports.

One member of the department recalled hearing about a new initiative undertaken by the APA – a ‘site visit’ program intended to help departments in their efforts to deal with climate problems. After mistakenly concluding that this site visit program was an official program of the APA, the department decided that one good component of their strategy to rescue the department would be to invite the site visit team to Colorado.

And the rest, as the saying goes, is history.

After reflecting on this account from Professor Tooley, I find it makes sense of some otherwise puzzling points. For instance, the site visit team and administration seem to have suggested that the administrators were the ones who came up with the idea of bringing in the site visit team. But by what means would the provost have come up with that idea in the first place? The site visit team was not, at the time, well-known; and it seems unlikely that the provost would have gone to the APA website in order to see what resources the APA has for dealing with the problems he hinted at to the department, and decided for some reason to bring in that team. It seems far more likely for a high-level administrator to delegate the responsibility of finding such a team to someone else, and it is consistent with Tooley’s plausible story about the meeting to think that this is just what the provost did. However, it would be very natural for the provost and perhaps the dean to then ask the site visit team for a copy of the report, and we know the team delivered this to them under questionable circumstances, and followed this up by stonewalling Tooley when he tried to find out what basis they had for doing this.

Once the report was handed over, there would be nothing surprising in both the team and administrators attempting to justify this disclosure by pretending that the dean and provost had co-requested the visit with the department in the first place.

3 thoughts on “How the site visit team was invited to Colorado: the scoop from Professor Tooley

  1. This sounds like a story written collaboratively between Franz Kafka and Joseph Heller.

    Bugsy Bureaucrat comes down hard on a department demanding that a problem no one knows about and he refuses to describe be solved pronto, otherwise heads will roll. Department members with their hair on fire run every which way in response, look on Craigslist, and call for The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight to save the day.

    But, strangely, the day is not saved.

  2. A number of people have wondered why Tooley doesn’t show us the original request from the department (presumably, from Forbes) so that we can see that it wasn’t signed by the provost and the dean. Any thoughts on that?

    • Hi, Anonymous.

      Professor Tooley tells me that he has divided his material into at least two main parts. What he has presented so far is the story of the site visit. He is presently working on a larger batch of materials explaining the site visit in context. Quite possibly, the document you mention is one of the things he will release in the second batch.

      I have seen this discussed in a few places (possibly the same places you did) and can’t help but be reminded of the people a few years ago who kept insisting that Obama provide more and more evidence that he was a native US citizen. Whatever documents were provided, they would come up with one document that wasn’t included and say that *this* was really the crucial document, and then muse on why he hadn’t provided that document. I think something similar is going on here. Several people seem highly invested in the view that the site visit team is a force of pure goodness and are desperate to put off revising that view no matter how incriminating things come to appear.

      Here’s an alternative question for those people: if the original request sent to the site visitors really did come from the dean and the provost as well as the department, then why doesn’t the site visit team provide that evidence? Why, indeed, would they have neglected to provide that evidence first in response to Tooley’s request and then when they were legally compelled to under the CORA request?

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