University of Colorado associate philosophy professor David Barnett
University of Colorado associate philosophy professor David Barnett (University of Colorado)

The University of Colorado's move to fire tenured faculty member David Barnett is just the latest public blow to the Boulder campus' philosophy department.

Barnett's dismissal proceedings come with the revelation that a now-former instructor within the department was found responsible for violating the university's sexual harassment policy, an offense the instructor is alleged to have committed against a female graduate student.

The university this week paid the female student $825,000 to settle accusations that Barnett retaliated against her after she reported the sexual assault by the instructor, whom the Daily Camera is not identifying because he was not arrested.

These most recent developments come after six months of internal and public turmoil within CU's philosophy department.

In January, the university made public an independent report that documented sexual harassment, bullying and other unprofessional behavior within the department.

The findings of that report led the university to suspended graduate admissions into the department and to replace former department head Graeme Forbes with an outsider, Andy Cowell, who came to philosophy from the linguistics department.

Many members of the department criticized the university's handling of the report, saying that they were told it would remain a private document.

Others denounced the report, and said that its authors were biased in their investigation and writing of the document. And others alleged it was factually inaccurate.

Banned from campus

Then, in early March, the university placed associate philosophy professor Dan Kaufman on paid administrative leave and barred him from campus.

Kaufman's leave concerned faculty members from many departments because he was escorted from his classroom — in front of undergradaute students — by campus police officers.

Faculty members in philosophy were instructed to call police if they saw Kaufman on campus.

More than two months later, and after being assessed by a leading expert in workplace and school violence, Kaufman was allowed back at CU.

No explanation has been given by the university for his banishment or for his return.

The university still has not decided whether to admit graduate philosophy students for the fall of 2015, according to the department's website.

Positive steps

The philosophy department has taken positive steps in recent months to address the climate issues mentioned in the independent report, such as bringing in internal and external experts for training on CU's discrimination and harassment policies, campus spokesman Ryan Huffsaid.

He added that the department has also initiated bystander training for faculty, staff and students encouraging them report actions that are hostile to women and to challenge those who contribute to a hostile environment.

CU also has brought in an external expert and formed an external advisory committee to guide the philosophy department moving forward and to transform it into one of "openness, mutual support and collegiality," Huff said.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Sarah Kuta at 303-473-1106, kutas@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/sarahkuta.