Mike Klymkowsky letter stepping down from Patti Adler committee
Mike Klymkowsky letter stepping down from Patti Adler committee

The chairman of the University of Colorado committee tasked with investigating the university's treatment of tenured sociology professor Patti Adler stepped down Friday over controversial comments he made at a Boulder Faculty Assembly meeting.

Mike Klymkowsky, a professor in CU's molecular, cellular and developmental biology department, resigned from his volunteer post as chairman of the committee created to look into the processes and procedures followed by university administrators in Adler's situation.

Adler drew national attention in recent months after she said university administrators pushed her toward an early retirement over concerns about a prostitution skit in her long-running course, "Deviance in U.S. Society."

In January, the Boulder Faculty Assembly created two ad hoc committees, one to investigate what happened to Adler and another to look into the university's Office of Discrimination and Harassment, the body that investigates all complaints of discrimination and harassment when the accused party is a university employee.

Both committees are expected to produce a report of their findings by May 1.

At a Thursday general meeting of the Boulder Faculty Assembly, Klymkowsky spoke to the group about his committee's charge — to look into the processes and procedures the university used or did not use in Adler's case.

He asserted that he felt academic freedom was not an issue in Adler's case, and that Adler had committed "malpractice" by asking teaching assistants to portray prostitutes for her class.

Several faculty members voiced their discomfort with Klymkowsky leading the committee after the opinions he expressed.

"I have to say that almost everything you have said since you stood up there, I'm uncomfortable with," said Mike Ritzwoller, a CU physics professor and member of the Adler committee. "I'm concerned about the procedures we're going to put in place to ensure the committee members have an equal say because I can barely sit in my seat after listening to this."

Paul Chinowsky, the assembly's chairman, said the committee is working to find a replacement for Klymkowsky, who in addition to stepping down as chairman removed himself from the committee entirely.

He said the assembly is committed to conducting an unbiased investigation into what happened in Adler's case.

"It's very important to (the faculty) that this whole process stay unbiased and professional," Chinowsky said. "That's what you're seeing. We're taking the steps necessary to make sure that's the way it is. If we think there's not impartiality from the beginning, we're going to make sure that that's taken care of up front. We want everybody to feel like the process is being looked at fairly and evenly."

Klymkowsky wrote in a letter he emailed to the Adler committee that he cannot lead the committee because he has already formed an opinion.

"I feel like I had made it too clear what I think," Klymkowsky said in an interview with the Daily Camera. "I'm probably not the tabula rasa that other people might like. I'm an opinionated fella. I have strong opinions. I realize I was not the right person for the job. I realized that I had a pretty clear understanding of what was going on and I didn't feel the committee was comfortable with it. I was just not the right person to do it."

Adler, who is not a member of the assembly and was not present at Thursday's meeting, said she heard from colleagues about Klymkowsky's comments.

When she heard Klymkowsky had stepped down, Adler said she was relieved.

"I welcome it," she said. "I certainly hope they contact me and communicate with me for information."

Committee will not investigate philosophy

Klymkowsky wrote in the letter that he thought the Adler committee would also look into the processes and procedures the university followed surrounding the philosophy department. An independent report released last week found pervasive sexual harassment within that department, but philosophy faculty members said they were blindsided when what they thought was a confidential report was made public.

In his letter, Klymkowsky wrote that after discussion at a Boulder Faculty Assembly executive committee meeting, he was under the impression "that the committee was expected to consider the situation in philosophy, and was taken aback when that idea was quickly quashed."

At the Thursday assembly meeting, Chinowsky told the group that the Adler committee would not look into the situation in the philosophy department.

"What (executive committee members) said was, 'We need to keep these separate,'" Chinowsky said. "'We don't know enough about the facts in philosophy; let's keep them separate.' So that may have been where the confusion was."

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at kutas@dailycamera.com.