The Site Visit Report

What Are the Facts, and
Why Have They Not Been Released?

The Site Visit Report presents an extremely negative picture of the Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder.  A number of people who have read the Report, and who have no inside knowledge of the Department, have observed that while the Site Visit Report is full of negative charges, there is a dearth of supporting facts.  There is no indication, for example, of how many members of the Department have been found guilty of sexual harassment. Nor is one told how many bullies there are.  Similarly, the Site Visit Report refers on page three to “the national reputation of the department as being hostile to women” and then on page four to the Department’s “reputation in the international philosophical community for being extremely unfriendly to women,” but no support is offered for the claims that the Department has a national or an international reputation for being hostile to, for being extremely unfriendly to, women. (A number of Google searches that I did on this ‘hostility towards women’ claim – done before the Site Visit Report became a public document – all drew complete blanks: that claim was nowhere to be found.)

       What are the facts, and why have they not been released?

    Consider, specifically, the extremely important case of sexual harassment.  A reader of the Site Visit Report is likely to conclude that sexual harassment is rampant in the Philosophy Department.  Thus a newspaper article, written by an admirable reporter who is completely dispassionate, and not at all sensational, is entitled “CU-Boulder reports pervasive sexual harassment within philosophy department.”  One of my colleagues, sitting in a coffee shop, heard a conversation between two people sitting at a nearby table who were talking about sexual harassment in the Philosophy Department, and one of the people said, “They must all be doing it.” Another colleague, talking to someone he had just met, mentioned that he was a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, and was told, “Shame on you!”

    The facts as regards sexual harassment, however, are these. Only one member of the Philosophy Department has been found guilty of sexual harassment, and that in two cases.  That person was punished both times, and in the second case, the punishment was not one that could plausibly be perceived, contrary to what the Site Visit Report tends to suggest, as “a slap on the wrist” (page 9): it involved, among other things, one semester’s suspension without pay.

    So why have the facts not been published?  The problem from the Department’s point of view is this.  All complaints against faculty are filed with the Office of Discrimination and Harassment.  The Philosophy Department has, however, no access to the personnel files of its members, and so it is extremely difficult for the Department to make confident statements about what complaints there have been, and what the outcome was.  The Office of Discrimination and Harassment, by contrast, could provide purely statistical information, but refuses to do so, claiming that doing so would somehow violate confidentiality.  Provost Russell Moore and Dean Steven Leigh could also do so, as could the External Interim Chair, Professor Andrew Cowell, but none has done so.  The only information that anyone who has access to the personnel files has provided – and if one were cherry picking with the goal of finding the single piece of information that casts the Philosophy Department in the most unfavorable light, this would definitely be the piece – is that in the case of the Philosophy Department, going back, it seems, to 2007, fifteen reports concerning members of the Philosophy Department have been submitted to the Office of Discrimination and Harassment. Thus, none of the people who have access to those personnel files are willing to answer any of the following questions, even though the questions are purely statistical, and the answers would not violate anyone’s right to privacy:

(1) Of the fifteen reports that were filed, how many took the form of actual complaints?

(2) Of those that took the form of complaints, how many were immediately set aside as not worthy of investigation?

(3) Of the complaints that were investigated, how many were resolved informally, rather than giving rise to a formal investigation?

(4) Of those that were formally investigated, how many led to a conclusion, based on the preponderance of evidence, that it was more likely than not that the person was guilty?

    The refusal to provide such statistical information is, given the release to the public of the Site Visit Report, extremely harmful to the Philosophy Department, to its members, to their families, and to both our recent Ph.D. graduates and our current graduate students.  But in spite of that, no person who has access to the purely statistical information is willing to make it public.

     A meeting will be taking place in the near future between the Philosophy Department and a representative of the Office of Discrimination and Harassment, and a number of us plan to argue very strongly both that there is no justification for the refusal to provide such statistical information, and that this policy is extremely harmful. I fear, however, that the Office of Discrimination and Harassment, along with members of the Administration who have access to that information, such as Provost Moore and Dean Steven Leigh, will be completely unmoved by the harm that has been done, and will remain resolutely inflexible on this matter.

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