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Are some guys in philosophy at the University of Colorado-Boulder bullies?

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(Article changed on February 6, 2014 at 05:58)

Duluth, Minnesota (OpEdNews) Feburary 5, 2014: On January 31, 2014, the administration at University of Colorado-Boulder made public a report about the Department of Philosophy that had been prepared, by invitation, by a three-member team from the American Philosophical Association's Commission on the Status of Women.

The site visit had been invited in April 2013. It was conducted in September 2013. In late November, the visiting team submitted its report to the department head, the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and the provost (the highest ranking academic official) -- each of whom had been involved in inviting the site visit. (The chancellor is the highest ranking administrative official.)

After reviewing the report for more than a month, the administration decided to make it public -- evidently, with the chancellor's approval.

Basically, the administration wants to stop hearing complaints involving the Department of Philosophy. For understandable reasons, the administration is exasperated with all the complaints involving the Department of Philosophy.

In various places the report contains some background information (e.g., the report alleges that at least 15 complaints involving the department have been filed with the Office of Discrimination and Harassment). But the report does not contain a separate subsection on the background of events that led up to the invitation for the site visit -- or of the department's attempt(s) to address the issues involved.

Among other things, the report includes the following statements:

"Moreover, we find that there is a lack of ownership from top to bottom regarding solving the problems and addressing unprofessional (or worse) behavior."

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For the department to recover, recovery "will involve taking drastic action."

By making the report public on January 31, 2014, the administration has indeed taken drastic action.

Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not this drastic action will lead to the department's supposed recovery.

I would like to contribute my two cents to the wished-for recovery of the Department of Philosophy by undertaking to examine and discuss here two other points in the report.

(1) Among other things, the report says, "Some faculty are unaware of how much their incivility towards one another and other types of unprofessional behavior harm their graduate students."

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Because "other types of unprofessional behavior" could include the report's allegations of inappropriate sexualized behavior discussed elsewhere in the report, I want to skip over this wording here and focus instead on the alleged incivility. Incidentally, I agree that inappropriate sexualized behavior is unacceptable.

Now, if certain faculty members engage in incivility towards one another, I can understand that their behavior might not edify their graduate students. But the report claims that their alleged incivility harms their graduate students. However, the authors of the report do not explain how this alleged harm to their graduate students comes about.

Moreover, the report explicitly claims that some of the faculty members involved in incivility are unaware of the alleged harm of their behavior on their graduate students.

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Thomas James Farrell is professor emeritus of writing studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD). He started teaching at UMD in Fall 1987, and he retired from UMD at the end of May 2009. He was born in 1944. He holds three degrees from Saint Louis University (SLU): B.A. in English, 1966; M.A.(T) in English 1968; higher education, 1974. On May 16, 1969, the editors of the SLU student newspaper named him Man of the Year, an honor customarily conferred on an administrator or a faculty member, not on a graduate student -- nor on a woman up to that time. He is the proud author of the book (more...)

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