The Site Visit Report

   A Brief Historical Overview of Actions
Taken by the Philosophy Department

Elsewhere, I have referred to the way in which the site visit team has grossly exaggerated the problematic behavior with which the Philosophy Department had been attempting to deal, transforming, for example, the existence of a single member of the Department who was found guilty of sexual harassment into a climate that one reporter referred to as one of “pervasive sexual harassment” , and similarly for other problems, such as uncivil behavior. Another feature of the Site Visit Report, however, is that it makes no mention of the many things that the Philosophy Department had done, and was in the process of doing, to deal with unacceptable behavior. In this document, then, I want to offer a brief account of the Department’s efforts.

1. The Office of Discrimination and Harassment, and the Veil of Total Secrecy

Before doing that, however, it is important to touch upon a barrier that stands in the way of one’s knowing when someone has engaged in problematic behavior. So here, very briefly, is the situation.

Once a report has been lodged against a faculty member, the Office of Discrimination and Harassment imposes a complete veil of secrecy, so that there is no public knowledge of the report, of whether it took the form of a complaint, of what or who it was about, of whether it was judged to be prima facie without merit, of whether it was informally dealt with, or of whether it led to a formal investigation, and, if it did, what the result was.

    The upshot is that if one of one’s colleagues was found guilty of some offense, there would never be any announcement of that fact. Members of the Philosophy Department could learn about such cases, if at all, only if someone involved in the case leaked information, contrary to University regulations.

2.  The Actions Taken by the Philosophy Department

Because of the veil of total secrecy that I have just described, most people in the Philosophy Department were, for a number of years, completely unaware that any of their colleagues had behaved in very unacceptable ways. Gradually, however, information leaked out, and as it did, the Philosophy Department asked itself what action it could take.

    The first thing that the Philosophy Department did was to create, in December of 2011, an ad hoc Departmental committee to look into the issue of behavior that the Department considered unacceptable, including behavior that is highly undesirable in spite of the fact that it does not violate any of the University’s policies. (This ad hoc committee, of which I was a member, was subsequently replaced by a permanent, ‘Climate Committee’, within the Department.)

    That committee immediately began deliberations, consulting with the Office of Discrimination and Harassment as it did, and the result of that committee’s deliberations was a recommendation to the Department by the Climate Committee that led to the adoption by the Department of a detailed “Code of Conduct Concerning Relationships,” of which I was a principal author, and which was posted on the Philosophy Department website along with links to the AAUP Statement on Professional Ethics, as well as to the discussion, in the CU Faculty Handbook, of Principles of Professional and Ethical Responsibilities, together with the University of Colorado’s official policies concerning sexual harassment, discrimination, and amorous relationships.  (The detailed “Code of Conduct Concerning Relationships” document has, however, been taken down by the External Interim Chair, Professor Andrew Cowell.)

    In addition, Professor Graeme Forbes, who was Head of Department until the University Administration recently – and quite unjustifiably – replaced him with an External Interim Chair, made it very clear that unacceptable behavior would not be tolerated. So, for example, when one member of the Department behaved in an uncivil way during a Department meeting, and stormed out, Professor Forbes took immediate action, forbidding that person from attending meetings, and also from using some of the Department’s email lists, the use of which had sometimes generated friction. Or again, whenever Professor Forbes learned of any problematic behavior, he immediately talked at length with the person involved, impressing upon that person in no uncertain terms the unacceptability of the behavior, and its harmfulness.
    Next, the Philosophy Department, because of its concern about the underrepresentation of women in the profession generally, and in graduate programs, and with a desire to learn what the causes might be, and what might be done about it, organized a Colloquium on the topic of “Philosophy and Inclusion,” which was held in April of 2013, with two invited female speakers who addressed the question of why there are so few women in philosophy, and whose talks were followed by a panel discussion on that topic.

    Then there was the Department’s decision, when it learned of the newly formed Site Visit Program, to request a site visit – a decision that resulted from a unanimous vote at a Department meeting.

    Finally, a number of members of the Department also had ideas about preventive measures that the Department could take, especially as regards behavior that, though it does not violate Universities policies, is undesirable, and those members, with the strong support of Professor Forbes, were planning on discussing those ideas at Departmental meetings this semester. Professor Forbes was, however, replaced by an External Interim Chair – Professor Andrew Cowell – who is following his own course of action, including “bystander training”, along with a compulsory Departmental “retreat” that took place on April 11-12.  (Members of the Department who attended that “retreat” cannot say anything about what took place there, even to members of the Philosophy Department who were absent for some reason.)

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