The Site Visit Report

   Why Hasn’t the Philosophy Department
Strongly Criticized the Site Visit Report?

Many people in the Philosophy Department believe, I think, that one should not criticize the Site Visit Report, and this for a number of reasons.  I have tried here to set out those reasons in what I hope is an accurate fashion.  I then go on to describe my reasons for thinking that, on the contrary, members of the Department should criticize the Report.

1. Five Reasons for Remaining Silent

1.1 The University Administration Will Be Angry, and Probably Retaliate

The Administration intervened very vigorously following the transmission of the Site Visit Report to the Department of Philosophy, the Dean, and the Provost, starting with the suspension of graduate admissions for at least this year, followed by the replacement of Professor Graeme Forbes, a person of great integrity, by an External Interim Chair, Professor Andrew Cowell.  In addition, however, the Dean and the Provost threatened to close down the Department if we did not respond in a satisfactory fashion to the Site Visit Report.

    Those actions were predicated on the assumption that the Site Visit Report is essentially a sound document. The Administration, moreover, did not give the Philosophy Department any opportunity to respond to, and to criticize, the Report.  For someone to argue that the Site Visit Report is unsound, then, raises questions about the Administration’s actions, and given the threat to close down the Philosophy Department, it is easy to understand why many of my colleagues are very hesitant indeed to criticize the Site Visit Report, at least in anything approaching a thoroughgoing way.

    Some of my colleagues think it likely, then, that if anyone criticizes the Site Visit Report in a comprehensive way, the Administration will retaliate, not only against the person who advances the criticisms, but also against the Department itself, by such measures as reduced funding, or the suspension of graduate admissions for a further year.

    My own view is that this fear on the part of some of my colleagues involves an unfair assessment of the character of Provost Russell Moore and Dean Steven Leigh: it assumes that they are vindictive individuals, and I am not convinced that their dealings with the Philosophy Department supports that view.

    Here is how I view the matter.  University administrators here and elsewhere in America are very much in a “post Penn State environment,” in which they are keenly aware that if some potentially serious problem exists in the university and one does nothing, one may very wind up accused of covering up, and may face serious criminal charges, as happened in the case of top administrators at Penn State University. The Site Visit Report, however, certainly suggested that there were some significant problems in the Philosophy Department, so one can certainly understand the feeling on the part of the Administration that serious action needed to be taken.

    In acting upon the Site Visit Report, the Administration was acting under the quite reasonable – but, as it turns out, mistaken – assumption that the Site Visit Program is a program of the American Philosophical Association itself – an assumption that the Philosophy Department also initially made. The Report seemed to the Administration, then, to be very authoritative.

    Why does this matter? Is it not just an issue of nomenclature? The answer is that it matters because the American Philosophical Association does not in any way oversee the site visit team's activities and reports, and the APA repudiates any responsibility for the quality or fairness of their reports.  In other words, no institutional mechanisms have been put in place at the APA to ensure that the Program satisfies even minimal professional standards.  What the site visit team does and what it says in its report is entirely up to the members of that site visit team.

    Moreover, had the Administration been aware of the fact that the Site Visit Program, as a program of the Committee on the Status of Women, appears to operate with the background assumption that there are, in philosophy departments in general, climate problems that specifically involve the treatment of women, I think that the Administration would have been more open to the idea that the charges made in the Site Visit Report need to be looked at rather carefully.

    Many who have read the Site Visit Report have often been struck by the fact that while very negative charges are plentiful indeed, supporting facts are not much in evidence, and this is something that should lead one to do a little investigating.  Members of the Administration could, for example, have done something that the site visit team did not do – but which the External Interim Chair, Professor Andy Cowell, wisely has been doing – namely, they could have interviewed individual members of the Philosophy Department, asking, for example, about whether uncivil behavior is a problem in the Department. Or the Administration could have done something that I did, namely, do Google searches to see whether there was evidence that, as the site visit team claimed, the Philosophy Department has a national and international reputation for hostility towards women.  (If one does such a search now, one will find many references, of course, to the site visit team’s own claim.  I did several searches, however, before the Site Visit Report was made public, and every search drew a blank.)

    In short, the Administration could have done more before it acted on the Site Visit Report. But given the post Penn State environment that exists for university administrators in America, and given the Administration’s natural, albeit mistaken belief about the status of the Site Visit Program, I think it is easy to understand why they felt the need to act vigorously, and without hesitation.    

1.2 Denial as Evidence of Guilt

Here is how one of my colleagues put this consideration:

There is a real danger that protesting too loudly that all the men in the department are being victimized or that one's reputation is being destroyed unjustly will backfire and cast more (not less) suspicion on innocent men in the department.  Indeed someone actually asked me whether one of the men who has been protesting his innocence vociferously is guilty! To paraphrase Shakespeare, he was thinking that "The [gentleman] doth protest too much, methinks."

    How widely shared is this thought?  I think it may be fairly widely shared, and my reason is this.  First of all, the office that deals with complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination against faculty members is the Office of Discrimination and Harassment.  They have a record of all the complaints that have ever been lodged against one, regardless of whether those complaints were judged to be, prima facie, with or without merit.  Second, one can write to the director of that office, asking for a letter, for example, stating whether there have ever been any complaints lodged against one, and, if so, what the outcome was, and the director will be happy to send one such a letter. (As I describe elsewhere, in a document entitled “The Office of Discrimination and Harassment,” there are obstacles that stand in the way of using that letter, since the letter is described as “confidential.” But those obstacles can be overcome.)

    A colleague and I therefore proposed that members of the Philosophy Department who are innocent could write to the director of the Office of Discrimination and Harassment, requesting such a letter, and those letters could then be posted.  This idea has not, however, been adopted, for what I think are three reasons.  The first is that if a large number of members of the Department were to obtain, and post such letters, that would have the result of showing that some central claims made in the Site Visit Report are not true, and, as I have just indicated, there is a concern that the Administration might not be happy about our doing that.

    The second reason, and the one on which I am focusing in this section, is the idea is that if one protests one’s innocence too strongly, the result will be that people will become even more suspicious that one is guilty.  So the situation seems to be this:

(1) If someone is charged with a crime and says nothing, that’s a good reason to think that the person is guilty.

(2) If someone is charged with a crime, and that person insists that he or she is innocent, that’s also a good reason to think that the person is guilty.

      My response to this ‘dilemma’ is simply that if one is in a situation where it has been suggested – as it was put in a local newspaper report –that a department to which one belongs is one where there is “pervasive sexual harassment,”  and one has evidence that no complaints of sexual harassment have been lodged against one, then it is absurd to say that making that evidence available to people is protesting one’s innocence too much.

    There is a third reason why I think that the Philosophy Department has not gone this route, and that is that many people think that it would not be effective.  Why so?  The reason is that some members of the Department think that if one were to post such letters, the response would simply be, “So what if no complaints have been lodged against you.  That doesn’t show that you haven’t been guilty of sexual harassment, since there are probably many cases of sexual harassment that are never reported.”

It’s not easy to defend oneself against the charge that one may have been guilty of unreported crimes.  But what grounds are there are for believing that there have been numerous unreported cases of sexual harassment in the Philosophy Department? It seems to me that this is just to assume that the Site Visit Report is a reliable document.

 One also needs to keep in mind that any member of faculty at the University of Colorado who witnessed a case of sexual harassment and failed to report that incident would be exposing himself or herself to a serious charge.  Here is what the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Response Protocol for Faculty, Staff and Student Employees  says in a section entitled “Obligation to Report Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault”:

The system wide Administrative Policy Statement on "Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedures," requires any supervisor who experiences, witnesses or receives a written or oral report or complaint of Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault or related retaliation that occurs in a University program or activity, to promptly report it to a campus discrimination and harassment officer.

A supervisor, moreover, is defined as follows:

Supervisor means everyone who has the authority to hire, promote, discipline, evaluate, grade or direct faculty, staff or students.  This includes everyone who manages or supervises others, including, but is not limited to faculty, teaching assistants, resident advisors, coaches and anyone who leads, administers, advises or directs University programs.

    Finally, it is perhaps worth mentioning that I recently encountered a variant on this “protestation of innocence” consideration.  It involves, so to speak, an indirect defense of one’s innocence, in which one tries to undermine the grounds for thinking that one is guilty, for example, of sexual harassment, by criticizing the Site Visit Report.  Here is how a colleague of mine put it in a friendly note:

I wanted to let you know that, certainly contrary to your intentions, a number of faculty around campus are wondering if you are one of the bad guys in the department, even perhaps one of the harassers. This is because you have been so visible (in the Daily Camera recently) in criticizing the site visit. None of these are people who know you - I think your friends and colleagues are well aware of your true nature. But as I move about campus, those who do not know you are saying to me something on the order of "what about that Tooley guy? He really looks like part of the problem" and so forth. I can assure you that I have always firmly replied that no, in fact you are definitely one of the good guys in that you have forwarded me information on possible misconduct, and have not engaged in any kind of questionable behaviors yourself. Nevertheless I feel that I should let you know, in a supportive way, that you are probably doing yourself more harm than good at the moment through the engagement with the site visit report. You're certainly free to continue with these documents, and I don't deny there were some problematic issues in terms of how it all got handled, but as a friend, I feel like I need to let you know what the public, pragmatic effect of this is right now on campus, and also likely in the larger community.

    Here let me simply quote the response by another friend to this consideration: “It makes sense. I’ve been telling everyone that if you’re against witch hunting, you must be a witch. I guess other professors around campus have taken this to heart.”

1.3 “Quibbling” with the Report as a Refusal to Admit Responsibility

The Administration has also attempted to discourage members of the Philosophy Department from criticizing the Report itself, characterizing such criticism as “quibbling” with the Report.  This led a colleague of mine to say,

We have been warned that to "quibble" with the findings of the Report is simply to signal our guilt, and that to vigorously agree with the report (which basically says that all of us – or at least all males – are guilty of complicit enabling of violations even if not of perpetrating violations ourselves), is the only way to signal innocence. (Now that is one clever argument, and as a philosopher I appreciate clever arguments.)

My response to this is, first of all, that if, as I claim, the Site Visit Report is unsound, showing that it is unsound does not involve any refusal to admit responsibility.

    Second, it is not a question of quibbling with the Report, nor is it a matter of nuanced disagreement with the Report, as another administrator suggested in a recent letter to me, in which he said, “I appreciate the nuances of your issues with the report . . ..” Nuances in general are not my forte, and my criticisms of the Site Visit Report are not a matter of nuanced disagreements: my claim is that the site visit team, in its Report, has produced an extremely inaccurate picture of the Philosophy Department.

    The Administration, in using the word “quibble,” was attempting to discourage legitimate critical responses to the Site Visit Report, and they were doing so because, as noted earlier, such criticisms would show that the Administration should really have both conducted some independent inquiries, and also solicited the Department’s evaluation of the Report before acting upon it.

    But, once again, in fairness to the Administration, it is possible that the Administration would have taken a more skeptical view of the Report if it had known either that the Site Visit Program was not a program of the American Philosophical Association itself, or that the Program appears to incorporate a highly controversial claim about the widespread existence in philosophy departments of a climate problem that is specific to women – though it must be added that these are things that it would have become aware of if it had taken the time to discuss the Report with the Philosophy Department.

1.4 Two Further Reasons: Some Philosophers Will Attack Us Fiercely, and One Will Harm the Gender Equity Movement

Next I want to consider two arguments that are connected. To set out these two arguments, let me begin by quoting from a letter – with names removed – written by one of the members of the Department here:

Hi all,

I suppose many of us have been corresponding with folk outside CU about our issues. I just received a piece of advice from X that I wanted to share with everyone, because I think she has a perspective on this that it's hard for us to have, and one that perhaps we don't fully appreciate. Her parting words to me, in her last email, were these:

Now you guys need to make sure no one in the department publishes anything in a public forum that's super defensive!! 

I'm sharing this in part because it seems like some of you are perhaps contemplating circulating responses that would count as "defensive." By that word, I think she means to include responses we might regard as taking the offense, against the site visit report.

From the larger context of her email, it's clear that the worry is that such a statement would lead others to jump into the fray against us, in defense of the site visit program. People should understand that a lot of folk in the discipline are deeply worried that this whole episode is going to harm the broader gender equity movement in philosophy. So if we attack the site visit, it's going to look to people like we are attacking the site visit program itself, and more generally the advances made in gender equity in recent years. Hence, if we do that, people are going to punch back, aggressively. Their tacit purpose will be to support that program, but the form it will take is yet further attacks on Colorado. And I think we want to avoid that!

No doubt, you'll all do exactly as you like. But I do hope folk will be aware of this dynamic, before sticking their necks out.

   There are two very different arguments here.  The first is concerned with the reactions of people to any criticism of the Site Visit Report, and was put above as follows: “So if we attack the site visit, it's going to look to people like we are attacking the site visit program itself, and more generally the advances made in gender equity in recent years.”

   Now the first part of this is reasonable, because I do think that our own site visit exhibits features that are likely to infect all site visits, including such things as a small amount of time on campus trolling for complaints and "perceptions" of problems such as sexual harassment, and then reporting, falsely, that those problems are very widespread.  The second putative inference, however, is feeble.  Why should an attack on one highly controversial program be deemed an attack "more generally” on “the advances made in gender equity in recent years"?  Why, if one thinks that the Site Visit Program is not at all a good means to advancing the goal of gender equity, should it be concluded that one is against the goal of advancing gender equity?

   The second argument is concerned, not with the reactions of people to criticism of the Site Visit Program, but with the actual effects of such criticism upon the movement towards gender equity: the claim is that such criticism would harm the movement within the profession towards gender equity.  This second argument can be put as follows:

(1) If anyone criticizes the University of Colorado Site Visit Report, that will lead people to have general doubts about the whole Site Visit Program.

(2) Those doubts will have the result that fewer philosophy departments will request site visits.

(3) But site visits do a great deal both to improve the climate in philosophy departments for women, and to move the profession as a whole in the direction of gender equality.

(4) Consequently, one should not criticize the University of Colorado Site Visit Report since that will slow down progress with regard to both (a) improving the climate for women in philosophy departments, and (b) the achievement of gender equality within the philosophy profession.

    What is one to say about this reason for not responding to the Site Visit Report?  First of all, I think that the idea that site visits can move the profession significantly in the direction of gender equity is based upon a mistaken hypothesis about the explanation of the underrepresentation of women in the profession.  Second, site visits of the sort involved in the Site Visit Program created by the APA Committee on the Status of Women are, I believe, methodologically unsound. Third, I also believe that there is, at the heart of the Site Visit Program, a highly controversial belief concerning the existence of ‘climate problems’ in philosophy departments.

1.4.1 The Methodological Unsoundness of the Site Visit Program

 Let me start with the second of these points. What would a methodologically sound site visit be like?  First, the site visit team would determine what problems there in fact are in the department they were visiting, and how extensive those problems were.  Second, having done that, they would propose ways in which the department might effectively deal with those problems.  Third, they would do a draft of their report, and seek feedback, suggestions, and criticisms from the department before presenting their final report.

    How can one determine what problems there are in a department?  One has to ask the right questions and this requires that the questions be constructed, or at least vetted, by people with the relevant training – arguably someone with extensive training in a discipline such as sociology.  But waiving that point, it is clear that one thing that one certainly needs to do is to conduct interviews with individuals on their own, since one needs to ask each individual whether he or she has personally suffered sexual harassment, or bullying, and so on, and, if so, what the nature of the incident was, and who was involved.  A site visit team could then assess whether the incident really was, for example, a case of sexual harassment, and, if so, how serious a case it was.  Those interviews with individuals would then allow one to determine how prevalent sexual harassment or bullying was in a department, and how many guilty parties were involved.

    Is this done in site visits of the sort involved in the Site Visit Program created by the APA Committee on the Status of Women?  The answer is that it is not, and it cannot be done, since the site visits are far too short.  In our own case, the site visit lasted a day and a half, with only three hours given over to scheduled discussions with faculty.  But when one meets with a group of individuals, one cannot ask people to talk about the sexual harassment or the bullying that they themselves have experienced.  One has to ask instead, for example, whether people are concerned about sexual harassment or bullying, and the answers to that type of question give one no useful statistical data at all, since many people may be concerned about a certain type of behavior, but there might be only one person in the department who is guilty of the behavior in question.

    What form could a report then take?  If it were an honest report, it would have to say that while many people expressed concerns of a certain sort, the site visit team, because it did not have the time to interview individuals on their own, and in depth, cannot really say how many people in the department have been guilty of the behavior in question, or how serious the behavior in question was.

    Anyone who reads the Site Visit Report concerning the Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado will see that the site visit team did nothing of the sort. What one gets instead are general statements about such things as sexual harassment and bullying that are more or less completely non-quantitative, but that taken together create the totally false impression that the Department is one where there is, in the words of one reporter, “pervasive sexual harassment.” 

    Why did the individuals in the site visit team produce a report that created such a wildly inaccurate account of the Department?  It is hard not to conclude that the explanation is that the site visit team, rather than coming to the Department with an open mind about what problems they would find, came with a certain shared view, to the effect that philosophy departments suffer from a certain sort of climate problem, namely, that of a climate that is hostile towards women, and where women are sexually harassed and bullied, and that it is the existence of such hostile climates in philosophy departments that are to blame for the underrepresentation of women in the profession.

    If, as seems very plausible to me, the members of the site visit team do share something along the lines of this belief, the method that they employ – which, rather than collecting any hard data on how common, for example, sexual harassment is, or how many individuals are involved, consists simply of soliciting expressions of concern about the type of behavior in question – makes it a simple task for the site visit team to arrive at conclusions that match the views that they brought with them to the site visit.

    But does the Site Visit Program involve the view that hostile climates in philosophy departments are to blame for the underrepresentation of women in the profession?  It seems clear that it does, for here is quote from the webpage for the Site Visit Program of the Committee on the Status of Women:
Specific goals of the APA-CSW-sponsored site visits include:

•    Gaining information in a systematic way about the range and variety of women’s and minorities’ experiences in Philosophy that contribute to the ongoing underrepresentation of women and minorities in the field.

It is held, then, that the way in which women and minorities are treated in philosophy departments or philosophy classes or both explains, at least in part, the current underrepresentation of women and minorities in philosophy.

    In response to my claim that the site visit team’s investigation of the Philosophy Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder was methodologically unsound, it might be said that, although the methods that the site visit team employs are in general unsound, in the specific case of their visit to the University of Colorado they had the benefit of other information, since the Office of Discrimination and Harassment gave the site visit team access to the confidential personnel files in that office, and that this would have put them in a better position than members of the Department are in to ascertain how serious certain problems are.

    To judge the merit of this argument, consider the following question: Of the 15 complaints lodged with the Office of Discrimination and Harassment since 2007, how many members of the Philosophy Department have been found guilty of sexual harassment?  The picture painted by the site visit team in its Report is of a department where, as just noted, there is “pervasive sexual harassment.”  Conversations that I have had, however, with people who do have access to the relevant information all confirm the view that only one member of the tenure/tenure-track faculty in the Philosophy Department has been found guilty of sexual harassment during that time period, and that person was vigorously punished. The conclusion, accordingly, is that while the site visit team did have access to additional information, it clearly did not use the information to which it had access to present an accurate picture of the Department. On the contrary, it chose not to use crucial information that did not fit well with its general view that philosophy departments suffer from climate problems, rather than just from isolated unwelcome occurrences.

1.4.2 Does the Site Visit Program Involve a Highly Controversial Belief Concerning ‘Climate Problems’?

As is clear from my correspondence with Amy Ferrer, the Executive Director of the American Philosophical Association, which is posted on this website, the Site Visit Program is not a program of the American Philosophical Association itself; it is instead a program of the Committee on the Status of Women. That naturally gives rise to the question of whether that committee may not have certain views that shape the approach of the site visit committee.

    The answer, as is clear from a passage that I have just quoted, is that this is the case.  The same conclusion emerges as well from the following passage at the very beginning of the website for the Site Visit Program:
The APA has a clear interest in and responsibility for improving the climate for women in Philosophy departments. Moreover, working to improve the climate for women, improves the climate for everyone.  Good climate makes a difference for job satisfaction and productivity.

For why would one speak specifically of “a clear interest in and responsibility for improving the climate for women in Philosophy departments,” rather than, say, “a clear interest in and responsibility for improving the climate for everyone, both men and women, in Philosophy departments”?  The answer, clearly, is that the Committee on the Status of Women must believe that the climate for women in philosophy departments is somehow problematic in some way, or to some extent, in which the climate for men is not.

    I have been in half a dozen philosophy departments over the course of my career, and it does not seem to me that female members of those departments were treated differently in any way than male members.  I did not, for example, see any differences between, on the one hand, the way in which male philosophers interacted with female philosophers and, on the other, the way in which they interacted with each other. Nor did I see any prejudice against women faculty when it came to decisions to hire, to tenure, or to promote, or against female students when it came to admission to graduate school. Indeed, in recent years, I have seen cases involving bias in the opposite direction, both as regards hiring, and with respect to graduate admissions.

    Moreover, in my observations of classes taught by my colleagues, I never saw any differences between the ways in which female students were treated when they asked questions, or put forward arguments or objections, and the ways in which male students were treated.

    Now it may be that I am not a sufficiently sensitive observer. My point here, however, is simply that the claim that there is some climate problem for women in philosophy departments that is not just a general climate problem is a controversial claim that one might very well think is false, and thus that one might very well not want to have a site visit carried out by a team that assumes, on the contrary, that philosophy departments involve a climate problem that specifically affects women.

    A colleague of mine, Chris Heathwood, responded very helpfully to my discussion here as follows:

I would bet good money that a strong majority of female philosophers think that there is a climate problem for women in philosophy.  My own experience in philosophy is more like yours; I have never observed such problems.  But if an impartial genderless observer from Mars were to come down and try to figure out the truth of the matter by doing some polling, maybe the Martian should put more stock in the opinions of women when it comes to this question.

Also, probably one important reason why many people are persuaded that there is a climate problem for women in philosophy is this blog:

Women write in with troublesome experiences they’ve had in our profession.  Obviously, it’s all just anecdotal, but there’s quite a lot of it there.  I doubt we could gather a comparable amount of anecdotal evidence pertaining to the experience of men.  What do you make of this?

     This is certainly a good question, and there are various things to be said. First of all, the blog doesn’t enable us to figure out how many women have negative experiences, as compared to the number who have no negative experiences, and for whom everything is fine. The blog selects for negative experiences, because if nothing unusual has happened to you having to do with your being a woman in philosophy, then you wouldn’t post on that blog.

     In addition, the blog also doesn’t enable us to tell how many women in philosophy have negative experiences, as compared with women in any other walk of life, or in other academic fields, such as physics or psychology.

     The main point that I want to make, however, involves distinguishing, to borrow two terms that my colleague Alison Jaggar employed in a recent panel discussion, between the ‘weather’ and the ‘climate’ – though I may be drawing the distinction in a slightly different way than she did.  Very briefly, the point is this.  In society, many more men than women are guilty of such things as sexual assault and sexual harassment.  One would expect, then, that the situation would be similar in the case of university faculty, although one would also expect the frequency to be less, given the negative correlations between crime and socio-economic status.   Can one conclude, then, that the ‘climate’ is worse for women than for men in university departments, including philosophy departments?

    If one is using the term ‘climate’ just to refer to how the ‘weather’ is in general, then one certainly can.  But I think that many people use the term ‘climate’ in a different way, in which one is referring not just to such things as incidents of sexual harassment, but to attitudes and behavior on the part of non-harassers that nevertheless make harassment more likely to occur.

    The key concept, when the term ‘climate’ is used in that way, is the idea of complicity, and to say that the climate is bad for women is then to say, for example, that even if most men are not themselves guilty of sexual harassment, they are generally guilty of being complicit.

    My view, then, is that while women have certainly had troublesome experiences, and have had more of those than men have had, I do not believe either that the ‘climate’ in the sense I have just explained is worse for women than it is for men, or that male philosophers are hostile to women philosophers. But I am certainly prepared to be convinced otherwise.

    One type of support that is sometimes offered for the view that there must be a climate problem for women is that women are underrepresented in the profession, in graduate school, and in upper division philosophy courses.  The idea is that these facts are to be explained in terms of something about the environment in philosophy departments and in philosophy classrooms.

4.3 Why Are Women Underrepresented in the Profession?

This brings me, then, to my final point, to the effect that the idea that site visits can move the profession significantly in the direction of gender equity is based upon a mistaken hypothesis about the underrepresentation of women in the profession.

  Why are women underrepresented in the profession? There are a variety of answers that have been given to this question, but I want to focus on two answers, both environmental.  The one is that at least one very important cause of the underrepresentation of women in the profession involves the university environment, with women being treated differently in classrooms than men, or with many male philosophers being hostile to female philosophers, or both.

    If this hypothesis is right, then one has reason to think that site visits have the potential for doing a world of good in pointing out to members of a department the unhealthy climate for women that exists in that department, and then by both strongly encouraging the department to change that climate, and providing it with ways of doing so.

    But I am not convinced that this first explanation of the underrepresentation of women in our discipline is right. First of all, philosophy is not alone with regard to the underrepresentation of women.  Consider the following figures from a National Science Foundation “Survey of Earned Doctorates”  for the year 2012:

Subject        Percentage of Doctorates Earned by Women

Mathematics:                28.3

Philosophy:                  26.8       

Physics:                       19.4

    The question to which these figures give rise is whether the underrepresentation of women in mathematics and physics is to be explained in the same way as in the case of philosophy, or in a different way.  The idea that different explanations are to be given strikes me as quite implausible.  But if one offers the same explanation, and if it is the explanation just mentioned, then one is thereby committed to the view that one very important cause of the underrepresentation of women in mathematics involves the university environment, with women being treated differently in mathematics classrooms than men are treated, or with many male mathematicians being hostile to female mathematicians, or both, and similarly in the case of physics.  Is this at all plausible?

If one does think that this is plausible, consider the following figures from the same document:

Subject        Percentage of Doctorates Earned by Women

Psychology:                71.0

Anthropology:             65.9

    If hostile attitudes and harassing behavior on the part of men explain the low percentage of doctorates earned by women in mathematics, philosophy, and physics, why don't the same hostile attitudes and harassing behavior on the part of men also generate a low percentage of doctorates earned by women in psychology and anthropology, just as they supposedly do in the case of philosophy?

    Moreover, if one thinks that the underrepresentation of women in philosophy is to be explained in terms of a bad climate for women, would one also accept the idea that the nearly comparable underrepresentation of men in psychology is to be explained in terms of a bad climate for men?

    Are we to conclude, then, that there must be a very hostile climate for men in these disciplines, one that needs to be addressed by a vigorous program of investigative site visits?  In fact no one is suggesting this.  And yet the argument for this appears to be just as good as the argument that the gender imbalance in philosophy is the result of a hostile climate towards women.

    The basic point here is that there are many possible alternative explanations of the underrepresentation of women in philosophy. I myself favor a different environmental explanation, one that focuses on both interests and traits of character.  As regards the first, one has only to wander through a toy store to see the very different toys that are marketed to boys and girls, and then to think a bit about the quite different interests that will be fostered by those different toys.  Accordingly, it seems to me that it may very well be the case that the interests that boys typically develop as a result of this socialization process are ones that help to make mathematics, physics, and philosophy more interesting, and more appealing to boys than to girls. If so, that explains, at least in part, why fewer women that men pursue a major in philosophy.

    Second, I think that it is also the case that certain traits of character are crucial to success in the most challenging intellectual disciplines, and that the different ways in which boys and girls are socialized, and perhaps also the different ways in which they may be treated in elementary and secondary schools, makes it unfortunately less likely that women will come to possess those traits of character that make for success in the more difficult, and more abstract, disciplines.

    In short, I think it is quite plausible that the different ways in which boys and girls are raised and socialized tends to foster the development of quite different interests and traits of character, and that this provides a much more plausible explanation of the underrepresentation of women in philosophy, mathematics, and physics than any hypothesis that appeals to hostility towards women or to a bad climate for women in the relevant disciplines

    Here is some anecdotal evidence in support of the effect of one’s early environment upon one’s later success in certain very demanding and challenging fields. When we lived in Australia, my wife, Sylvia, had a friend named Cheryl Praeger, who was doing a Ph.D. in mathematics.  Cheryl mentioned, one time, that she hadn’t initially excelled in mathematics in elementary school until her parents shifted her out of a coeducational school into an all-girls school, at which point she took off.  After completing her Ph.D., Cheryl became only the second woman ever to have become a full professor of mathematics in Australia, and she has had an extraordinarily distinguished career. 

    Here is another story.  One of my close philosophical friends in Australia was also very strong chess player.  We were talking one time about the great chess players of the past, and the question came up as to why there had been virtually no great women players, with Vera Menchik being the only one that came to mind at the time.  My friend thought that the explanation was genetic; I claimed it was environmental. But I was not really able to offer much in the way of strong support for my view.

    That, however, was before the advent of the three Polgár sisters – Susan, Sofia, and Judit.   Their father, László Polgár , believed that geniuses were made, not born, and so he home educated all three of his daughters, concentrating on chess.  All three became grandmasters, with the youngest, Judit, becoming a grandmaster at the age of fifteen years and four months – the youngest person, at that time, ever to achieve that status. I think that my friend would now concede that, on this matter, I was right, though it could be contended – albeit not, in my opinion, with much plausibility – that given that they were sisters, they just happened to share great genes for chess!

    In short, I’m not convinced that the underrepresentation of women in our profession is to be explained by some sort of negative climate for women in philosophy departments.  I believe that a much more plausible explanation is in terms of much earlier environmental factors, and ones that also explain the underrepresentation of women in other areas, such as mathematics, physics, and chess.  (It was for that reason, incidentally, that my wife and I chose to home educate our own two daughters.)

2.  My Reasons for Speaking Out

As will be clear from the above, I am unconvinced by the reasons that some of my colleagues have offered for refraining from criticizing the Site Visit Report.  I have therefore decided that I am going to release my criticisms of the Report, and this for two reasons.  First, the Report has caused, and will continue to cause, very significant harm, damaging the reputations of innocent people, and inflicting suffering upon their families.  Imagine that the department that you belonged to were subjected to the charges that the site visit team has leveled against the Philosophy Department here.  Think about the effects this would have upon your spouse, your children, your parents, and think about how it would affect your relationships with friends and neighbors, and with philosophers elsewhere.

     The impact, moreover, is especially great in the case of untenured members of the Department.  Here, with identities concealed, is what one of my colleagues recently said in an email:    

Yesterday, I talked to one of my male colleagues, X, who is just distraught, wretched about it, as is another male colleague, Y – they feel like their teaching and research careers are over. X tells someone that he is a philosophy professor, and the person says, "Shame on you!" Y feels that shame keenly, and it doesn't make any difference that we all know that he's just the most upstanding guy ever.

    I then received an email from X, who talked about being publicly shamed though he is blameless, about being suspected of wrongdoing even by those who know him, and about the effects this has had upon him. I also had a conversation with Y, who told me about being in a coffee shop, where two people were talking about sexual harassment at the University of Colorado, with one of them remarking, “They must all be doing it.”

    The public release of the Site Visit Report has also had a devastating effect both upon our current graduate students and also on our recent Ph.D. graduates who are currently on the job market, both male and female.  Many current graduate students have decided that the damage done by the report to the Department's reputation, the placing of the Department in quasi-receivership, the suspension of graduate recruiting, have materially damaged their chances of a successful career if they graduate from the University of Colorado, and so are looking to go to other programs.  This is a huge cost to them both financially and emotionally.  Those who are too advanced in their graduate studies to move have become depressed and demoralized, as have those students who graduated from the Program recently. In the light of the report the Department has been characterized as maintaining a climate involving "pervasive sexual harassment,” and where even those who have never engaged in sexual harassment themselves are accused of being complicit. Male graduates are afraid that they will be suspected of being part of the problem.  Even some of the female graduates have expressed the fear that they will be somehow implicated, since with letters of recommendation from a philosophy department that is supposedly characterized by “inappropriate sexualized unprofessional behavior,” might not someone on a selection committee wonder whether some of one’s especially glowing letters of recommendation aren’t based in some cases on something beyond one’s academic achievements?

    It is my belief, then, that one cannot remain silent in the face of such things, in the face of harm to graduates students and recent graduates, to innocent members of the Department, and to the families of both.

    Finally, though, it is not just my colleagues, our current graduate students, our recent Ph.D. graduates, and all of our families who are being harmed by this.  For here is a quote that follows on immediately from the one just above: “If it's any comfort, I believe that the blot is on philosophers in general, not just Colorado philosophers. I bet that after that Slate article, male philosophers everywhere are getting that.”

    The Site Visit Report, then, is a goldmine for people, such as Rebecca Schuman, who will use the Report as a platform from which to draw a general conclusion about male members of philosophy departments in general. In Schuman’s case, this goal is announced in the very title of her piece: “Nasty and Brutish – A scandal in Colorado reveals that bullying bros still plague university philosophy departments.”

    This totally unjustified harm to innocent philosophers everywhere, then, is another reason why I feel that those of us in the Philosophy Department here at the University of Colorado cannot, with a clear conscience, continue to remain silent.  It seems to me that if we stand by and say nothing, lying low and hoping that the storm will pass, then we really will have good reason to be ashamed of ourselves.

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