1. THE PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT AND THE SITE VISIT REPORT
Some time ago now, I initially posted a number of documents that I thought would be helpful for an evaluation of the Site Visit Report, but I refrained at that point from including my own response to the Report. A few months later, however, I posted my response. As will be clear from one of the documents, however, my decision to post documents critical of both the Site Visit Report, and also the Administration, was not one with which all of my colleagues agreed, in large part because the Philosophy Department was under the threat of being closed down – a threat that has never been officially taken off the table, in spite of new hires – and a number of my colleagues feared that any criticism, either of the Site Visit Report, or of the Administration, would increase the likelihood of the Administration’s carrying out that threat.
The views expressed here, accordingly, are my own, and should not be attributed either to the Philosophy Department, or to other members of the Department.
2. THE DAVID BARNETT AFFAIR
A good deal has happened since I first posted the initial documents concerning the Site Visit Report, including the departure of three of my colleagues, two of whom, namely Professor David Barnett and Professor Brad Monton, when faced with the alternatives of either being fired and engaging in very expensive lawsuits against the University, or accepting a payout and resigning, on the condition that they not sue the University, chose the latter course of action.
The first point that should be made about the departures of Professor Barnett and Professor Monton is that there is a very widespread and completely mistaken belief that they were charged with and found guilty of sexual harassment, a belief that has been generated by irresponsible media coverage. The starting point was an article in the Boulder Daily Camera entitled “CU-Boulder reports pervasive sexual harassment within philosophy department,” which generated a widespread belief that there was pervasive sexual harassment within the Department, when in fact only one member of the Department has ever been found guilty of sexual harassment. The myth then continues into the present, with a Chronicle of Higher Education article by Robin Wilson with an opening sentence that contains the following extraordinarily misleading expression: “the philosophy department at the U. of Colorado at Boulder, which has lost three professors amid allegations of sexual harassment.”
As regards Professor Barnett and Professor Monton, the fact is that neither was charged with sexual harassment, let alone being found guilty of sexual harassment. In the case of Professor Barnett, he was charged with retaliation, a charge that was investigated at great length by a Privilege and Tenure Committee hearing, and where members of that committee unanimously concluded that he was not guilty of retaliation. In the case of Professor Monton, I have been told, by a source that I beleive to be reliable, that the charge was that he had failed to report an amorous relation with a student.
As regards the in effect forced departure of Professor Monton, my view is that failure to report an amorous relation is nothing anywhere in the vicinity of adequate grounds for threatening to fire a person. My knowledge of the case is, however, very limited, so I shall not comment further on that case.
The documents that I am posting deal, therefore, only with the case of Professor David Barnett, where I believe that it is clear that an enormous injustice was done. Moreover, while I have not done a survey of my colleagues, and while I am confident that some members of the Department were pleased by the outcome, my guess is that most members of the Department, though they would not say so publicly, for fear of retaliation against the Department, share my view that the forced departure of David Barnet was completely unjustified.
3. ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS AND THE RESULTING CLIMATE AT THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO
I virtually never pay any attention to philosophy blogs on the Internet, but occasionally friends and colleagues send me links to relevant discussions, and there I am almost always struck by two things. The first is how much of what is being said is being done in a serious vacuum, with philosophers expressing confident and often quite emotional opinions on matters where their knowledge is very limited indeed. In the case of the Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, for example, it is very rare for anyone to put things in the context of the behavior of the Administration of the University of Colorado at Boulder, involving, in particular, Dean Steven Leigh, Provost Russell Moore, and Chancellor Philip DiStefano. Thus, in my own response to the Site Visit Report, I advanced a number of criticisms of the Administration with regard to the Site Visit Report. It is crucial to realize, however, both that highly problematic behavior on the part of the Administration with regard to the Philosophy Department involves much more than that connected with the Site Visit Report, and also that morally problematic behavior by the Administration has not been confined to its treatment of the Philosophy Department. I have therefore decided to add a new section focusing specifically on some of the enormous number of highly problematic actions on the part of the Administration.
I mentioned that there were two things that I was struck by when I make the mistake of looking at philosophy blogs. The second is the fact that almost all of the opinions expressed on such blogs are put forward anonymously. This is understandable in the case of graduate students and Ph.D.’s who do not have tenured positions, but in the case of philosophers with tenured positions, it seems to me that posting opinions anonymously shows a complete lack of moral courage, and I think it is shameful that anonymous posting by such people should be allowed by those who run philosophy blogs.
IS THERE A BIAS AGAINST WOMEN IN PHILOSOPHY?
An extremely important issue that has been much discussed is whether the fact that there are far fewer women than men who are professional philosophers and graduate students in philosophy is due to some sort of bias or discrimination against women. As I discussed in a section of the document "Why Hasn’t the Philosophy Department
Strongly Criticized the Site Visit Report?", in none of the philosophy departments of which I have been a member have I witnessed any bias or discrimination against women with regard to decisions to admit to graduate study, or hire, to tenure, or to promote women, or to nominate them for various honors, and my own preferred hypothesis is that the underrepresentation of women in various disciplines, such as philosophy, physics, engineering, and mathematics probably reflects the different ways in which male and female children are generally raised. (This view was not, in general, very well received! But the responses that I have seen did not offer any scientific evidence that this view is mistaken.)
My goal here is not to provide a guide to the literature. I have merely uploaded a very small number of articles that I think are important for various reasons, along with a link to a document expressing my own view.