CU Boulder’s “Reckless” Treatment of Philosophy Department

Wes Morriston, University of Colorado philosophy professor emeritus, has written an opinion piece in The Daily Camera in which he excoriates the university administration’s handling of the various problematic events and revelations there over the past year or so, including what he says was “an explicit threat to dissolve the department by invoking Regent Policy 4H (the policy on program discontinuance). The idea was to fire everyone, and then hire back some of us. Those lucky enough to be rehired would be rostered (for administrative purposes) in other departments.”

He accuses the administration of bullying behavior that has cause “fear, insecurity, and distrust.” He says:

I am shell-shocked. During the past year, my department has been publicly humiliated by a series of reckless and ill-considered moves by the campus administration, accompanied by highly selective, misleading, and carefully choreographed disclosures to the press. As a result, a fine department’s reputation has been irreparably damaged and a very successful graduate program has been trashed. 

The administration did not have to do things this way. The overwhelming majority of my colleagues are people of good will who love their work and are justly proud of one another’s accomplishments. Even at the worst times, they have shown themselves capable of sitting around a table and having a civil, respectful, and constructive conversation about common problems. They were (and are) appalled by sexual harassment or sexual misconduct of any kind. They were (and are) eager to improve the climate for women, both in the department and in the discipline of philosophy more generally. Had administrators chosen to work with department members in a low-key, considerate, and respectful way — had they been less prone to public posturing, finger-pointing, and patting themselves on the back, things would have gone very differently.

The piece is here.

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9 years ago

Obviously no abuses of power should be tolerated, and the CU admins should be held accountable for them. But here’s a passage that is missing from this piece:

“The past couple of years have given me a taste of what it must be like to live in a police state… they have also given me a taste of what it is like to live as a sexually harassed member of our profession. Fear, mistrust and anxiety over our job security are exactly the emotions that a grad student or junior prof experiences when they are harassed by powerful older men. The irony here is that the administration has unjustly replicated those conditions amongst faculty.”

Male profs whose lives are disrupted by the process that we now have to go through: inform us of any injustices done to you, but as you’re doing so, please, please show some empathy for others who’ve also suffered injustice. We are *so* much more likely to trust your appraisal of your situation if you show some deep solidarity with theirs. And no, throwaway gestures towards Title IX are not the same thing as showing empathy for a victim: I would really like to know that you genuinely appreciate what it was like to have been a woman who endured “climate issues” under your watch.

9 years ago

I dunno. The more information comes out about Colorado the more the Climate report seems spot on to me, and these editorials don’t help the place look any better. Also, I’m reminded of this comic