External review finds sexual harassment ongoing in philosophy department

A review finding sexual harassment and bullying within CU’s philosophy department has led the university to suspend graduate admissions to the philosophy program until at least the fall of 2015 and remove at least one faculty member, CU announced Friday.

The American Philosophical Association Committee on the Status of Women’s review, which said that pervasive behavior persisted both on campus and at department social events, was released a week after CU announced a Title IX review that said the university legally adheres to federal gender and discrimination laws.

“The female graduate students would like more women in the department but they cannot recommend this department as a good place to come,” the review said.

Since 2007, at least 15 complaints from the philosophy department have been filed with CU’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment, according to the review. The department, it said, distrusts the office’s judicial fairness.

Women have been leaving or trying to leave the department at disproportionate rates, the review said. Other women told the review team that they responded to the inappropriate atmosphere by working from home, dropping out of departmental life and avoiding socializing with colleagues.

The review also heard reports of incivility, a lack of collegiality, verbalized disrespect for one another and sexism, often witnessed by graduate students.

Social events off campus and involving alcohol posed another issue, the report said.

“We found that there is excessive drinking when faculty and graduate students socialize,” the report said. “And that there is an inappropriate expectation that graduate students and faculty should socialize together after hours.”

The atmosphere has left women in the graduate program anxious, demoralized and depressed, the review found, and has men in the program worried and and angry.

Students of both sexes said they avoid certain faculty members that have bad reputations.

“This behavior has harmed men and women members of every stakeholder group in the Department,” the review said.

CU removed Graeme Forbes and is permanently filling his position as department chair with Andrew Cowell, currently the chair of linguists at CU and formerly the chair of French and Italian.

Ryan Huff, campus spokesman, said that Forbes will remain a professor in the philosophy department.

The university ordered the review last April and received its findings in late November.

“It took some time to absorb the findings of the report and decide on a path forward,” Huff said of the university’s decision to release the review after two months. “It also took some time to identify a new chair.”

Under Cowell’s direction, Chancellor Philip DiStefano said in a news release that the department will require training on sexual harassment, bystander intervention training and workshops to improve the department’s “scholarly climate.”

The department, which was reported as having a national reputation for hostility to women, is ranked by The Philosophical Gourmet Report as the No. 27 Ph.D. program in the United States. The report placed Boulder in the top four U.S. institutes for studying feminist philosophy (along with MIT, University of Sheffield and University of Washington), and in the top seven for applied ethics (along with Duke, Georgetown, Harvard, Oxford, Princeton and Rutgers).

The Daily Camera reported Friday that women in the philosophy department fill the positions of four of 24 faculty members, four of 13 instructors and lecturers and 10 of 53 graduate students.

In a typical year, Huff said, 12-15 students are admitted to CU’s graduate program in philosophy.

Contact CU Independent Breaking News Editor Alison Noon at alison.noon@colorado.edu.

Alison Noon

Alison is a senior at University of Colorado Boulder studying journalism and political science. She likes to run around outdoors when there’s time.

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