AND LET'S REMEMBER THIS PROBLEM ISN'T JUST AT COLORADO: There are other "Colorado's" out there, and we have all heard the stories. Indeed, parts of the report, sad to say, reminded me of the situation in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, at least back in 2008, which is when I left.--Brian Leiter
"We're reaping the unhappy harvest of an effort to do the right thing," said CU philosophy professor Michael Zimmerman. "We were acting in good faith to identify the concerns (within the department) and address the concerns, which is why we invited those people to come down in the first place.
It wasn't our intention to have a public spectacle. Had we foreseen this, we never would've invited those people to come."--Daily Camera
A year ago, I was approached over drinks by a member of Boulder's philosophy department. "I hear you are trying to recruit to Ghent?" That's right, I said, you know somebody?" "Yes, me." -- Boulder was a department one moved to, not a place to recruit from. -- "But why?" I said, trying to sound nonchalant. "I want out. We have a culture of sexual harrassment." I think I said a bit too loudly: "crap!"
I couldn't take it in. Boulder, that's where my best friend -- the best man at my wedding -- lives. Boulder, that's scenes from Mork & Mindy; hiking, skiing, fresh foods, and a department full of fantastic philosophers. The good life. Boulder, a place where I would love to be a regular visitor. I missed some of what my interlocuter, who was describing the active steps some (but not all) colleagues were taking to right the place, said. It dawned upon me that I was hearing not just about exhausting bureaucratic maneuvering; I was hearing of women who were denied the possibility to flourish in philosophy due to a very hostile work-place environment; of indifferent men; and of well meaning men that were caught between conflicting loyalties--between the desire to focus on their philosophical development and the demands of justice.
I did nothing. I did even not reach out to my other acquaintances (male or female) at Boulder. I have effortlessly avoided thinking about the victims at Boulder.
I am grateful to Profs. Hardcastle, DesAutels, and Fehr that they are willing to serve to improve our profession with their time and dedication. I realize that this involves considerable opportunity costs to them and the areas of inquiry to which they regularly contribute. (I have been learning from prof. Hardcastle's work since I was a PhD student.)
On our professional blogs, discussion has rapidly shifted from the substance of the report's findings to discussing the way the report has been handled by CU's Administration and its context-specific, proposed recommendations. I, too, would like us to move forward in the right fashion. I am hopeful that there is, indeed, a desire to make a good faith effort among many in the right direction. But before we can do that, the vast majority of us within professional philosophy should be paying attention to these lines:
The Department maintains an environment with unacceptable sexual harassment, inappropriate sexualized unprofessional behavior, and divisive uncivil behavior. Members of most groups we talked to report directly observing inappropriate behavior. This behavior has harmed men and women members... (p.3)
The professional philosophers at Boulder are not isolated; they were trained elsewhere and could fit right in among the rest of us.** They are, in fact, like the rest of us in innumerable ways. Their shame is ours.
*In fact, the report clearly states that Boulder's Administration is "not providing (sufficient) support or resources for the Philosophy Department to address these issues" (p. 10--the whole report is a litany of administrative failings).
UPDATED: ** This is a very classy and moving response to this week's events from folk at Boulder.