CU Boulder Philosophy: Call for Sexual-Harassment Horror Stories

Those of you in the higher-ed community are probably aware of this. If not, you should be.

Please email me with anything you’d like me to know, on or off the record. If you want to go on the record, please include your name and affiliation with CU-Boulder if you ever had one, though I will not print anything that I don’t have explicit permission to print.

8 thoughts on “CU Boulder Philosophy: Call for Sexual-Harassment Horror Stories

      • Well… it IS a philosophy department, after all. I don’t see how it is possible to study or teach philosophy while remaining within the bounds of the current legal framework. A male philosopher who does not grope, philander or engage in acts of sexual congress with age-inappropriate partners (male or female) is an impostor, and not a real philosopher.


      • George has a point. Maybe the CU dept. didn’t realize that the symposia of today are done a little different than the, er, festive affairs of Plato’s time…


  1. Got into a big discussion on Twitter last night about this. One of the questions I raised was how unusual this behavior really is. Is an outlier coming to a light, or a commonality being misleadingly exposed as unusual? Thoughts?


  2. I am not at all surprised this happened, just surprised that the university let it go public, instead of covering up the abuse, as is usually the case.


  3. Trying to hold it together while posting this, given the triggering nature of this topic, so apologies in advance for any incoherence which follows:

    Speaking as a person who was retaliated against for speaking out about hostile sexual (and racial) climate in my graduate program, which was covered up in 2008/2009 because my complaint and the incidents I complained about occurred while the department was being reviewed for its external NAS rankings, I think it is important to keep in mind that the CU case is not just about lecherous and sexually-harassing male professors, but also the socialization and professionalization of graduate students–both male and female–who will be future professors (those lucky few who get jobs, of course) and will repeat the same patterns of harassment and bullying, as well as standing by silently and not speaking out about it or rationalizing that there was no real wrongdoing if there was no physical violence or ‘real coercion’. This, for me, is what is so depressing about the. CU situation, and on display in the comments of the professors who said they felt the deparrment’s problems were being ‘unfairly exaggerated’.

    One of the things that most disturbed me about how and why professors in my department (not philosophy) chose to cover up clearly predatory and sexually harassing behavior, especially by a male graduate student who openly ‘joked’ about wanting to be a college professor because it was “a great way to meet women” (i.e. use power asymmetries to take avantage of female students, and then get away with it by saying there was no force or coercion involved), was the recourse to philosophical rationalization, primarily via Foucauldian theories of power, in order to refuse to acknowledge the coercive power asymmetries existing in the department which made abuse possible and fostered hostile climate and bullying.

    How many apologists will start in with ‘but why go drinking with professors’ and the rest? How much soul-searching will there really be, by those who always want to excuse bullying and abuse (especially when it makes their department ‘look bad’), will there be to be honest about how women’s being socialized to be nice and accommodating and to seek male validation (especially in a White male-dominated field like philosophy) allows for coercion that really isn’t about consent in the most sincere definition of this term. When women do things because they feel pressured to be ‘nice’ or not look like an ‘unfriendly bitch’, so as to try to please colleagues with more power so as to try to advance one’s career, discussions about ‘consent’ as a way to claim that coercion and hostile sexual climate don’t exist are rather disingenuous and in bad faith. And this issue of coercion becomes even more complicated when the woman is not White and thus also trying to work against racist-sexist stereotypes of being an ‘angry’ emasculating ball-buster or is expected to be a passive and submissive ‘good girl’.

    I am glad that the harassment in the CU department went public. If only the same would happen in other departments with profound hostile sexual climate problems. I hope the CU example will help to start a much-needed conversation on sexual harassment in graduate programs, including what behaviors actually constitute sexual harassment and Title IX hostile sexual climate violations. I hope it will help to stop the victim-blaming that usually happens in situations like this, especially because it is rare that anyone, much less an entire department ends up being held accountable for suh practices.

    Finally, it is noteworthy that APA actually conducted an independent investigation of the CU deparrment. A far cry from the actions of AAA, despite its public statements about “zero-tolerance for sexual harassment” and it’s knowledge of deparrment’s clearly violating this directive.


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