CORRECTION: University of Colorado officials overstated the cost of an external report on sexual harassment within the philosophy department that was compiled by the American Philosophical Association Committee on the Status of Women Site Visit Program. The cost of that report was $5,793.
The University of Colorado on Friday made public an independent investigation that found pervasive sexual harassment and bullying within the philosophy department, a report that has now led administrators to remove the chairman and suspend all graduate student admissions into the department until at least fall 2015.
The review — conducted at the department's request by the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Status of Women Site Visit Program — comes just days after the university released a report showing the campus is meeting the legal requirements under Title IX, the federal gender equity and non-discrimination law.
The committee's report on the philosophy department cites 15 complaints made to CU's Office of Discrimination and Harassment since 2007, and found that female members of the department are leaving or trying to leave at disproportionate rates after reportedly feeling anxious, depressed and demoralized.
"It is our strong conclusion that the department maintains an environment with unacceptable sexual harassment, inappropriate sexualized unprofessional behavior and divisive uncivil behavior," the report's authors wrote.
Read the full American Philosophical Association report at the bottom of this page. The eight major themes the reviewers identified within CU's philosophy department:
1. An environment of sexual harassment and sexualized unprofessional behavior.
2. Lack of civility, collegiality and respect for members of various groups.
4. Lack of boundaries and professionalism.
5. Lack of transparency regarding disciplinary processes, procedures and outcomes.
6. Lack of faculty trust in university judicial institutions, practices and procedures.
7. Lack of transparency in the administration of the graduate program.
8. Lack of leadership.
Source: University of Colorado
Many philosophy faculty members said they felt they were doing the right thing by asking for an external review, but then felt they were blindsided by the report being made public.
Many acknowledged that problems existed, however they said they felt the report exaggerated the extent of the issues.
"An effort to help our department and correct whatever wrongs are going on here turned out now to be a sledgehammer used against us," said Michael Zimmerman, a CU philosophy professor. "That's not to excuse whatever wrongs have gone on here. I wish the process had gone somewhat differently."
Aside from announcing the removal of department chairman Graeme Forbes, CU officials said they could not discuss any disciplinary action — including termination — taken against members of the department.
"I can assure you that anyone who has violated university rules has been held accountable under university policies," CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard said.
The committee's report does not identify any offending parties or complainants by name. Nor does it reveal how many members of the department are involved in the allegations.
The 15-page report, delivered to CU officials in late November, found:
Many instances of sexual harassment occurred while faculty and graduate students were socializing after hours, which often included heavy drinking.
CU's philosophy department has a reputation among the international philosophical community of being extremely unfriendly to women.
Many members of the department reported working from home, dropping out of departmental life and avoiding socializing with colleagues because of the workplace environment.
Some female students reported that they avoided working with faculty members because they directly witnessed or were subjected to harassment and inappropriate sexualized behavior.
Female graduate students would like more women in the department, but cannot recommend CU's philosophy department as a good place to work.
University administrators informed philosophy faculty members and graduate students Friday morning that Andrew Cowell, chairman of CU's linguistics department, will take over as philosophy chairman Saturday.
He replaces Forbes, who had been chairman since fall 2010 and who will remain a professor within the department. The report notes "a widespread perception that the current chair has not effectively responded to issues of sexual harassment and lack of civility."
Forbes declined to comment on the report Friday.
The review of the philosophy department included many recommendations, which the university is considering implementing.
Bringing in internal and external experts for training on discrimination and harassment policies, and initiating mandatory bystander intervention training to help members of the philosophy department better address inappropriate behavior they see.
Forming an external advisory committee to guide the department going forward, and reviewing all social functions to make sure they're "family friendly."
Adopting a strict no-alcohol policy for all department events and recommending the department hold all events during normal business hours.
The investigators also referenced a past departmental retreat, and recommended that a proposed spring retreat in the mountains be cancelled.
The report does not describe the previous retreat, and campus officials would not say what transpired there.
CU officials said they believe the report refers to a March 2008 faculty and graduate student retreat held in Vail, which cost roughly $3,000.
"To be perfectly honest, we are floored that members of this department would believe that having another mountain event would be a good idea, given the unprofessional behavior that transpired at the last one," the report's authors wrote.
'We have a cultural problem in the department'
Acknowledging the timing of this week's report on CU's Title IX compliance, Hilliard said that even though all of CU's policies and procedures around sexual harassment and discrimination follow the law, that doesn't mean the university is free of any wrongdoing.
"You can actually have great mechanisms in place and you can have good reporting structures and enough investigators," he said. "That doesn't mean you're problem-free, and, in this case, we have a cultural problem in the department."
Hilliard said the fact that 15 complaints were filed with the Office of Discrimination and Harassment from the philosophy department proves that members of the campus understand how and when to report instances of discrimination and harassment.
University of Colorado philosophy department demographics
Department annual budget: $2.9 million
Faculty: Four out of 24 faculty members are female.
Graduate students: 10 out of 53 graduate students are female.
Instructors and lecturers: Four out of 13 instructors and lecturers are female.
Source: University of Colorado
Provost Russ Moore, the senior academic administrator on the Boulder campus, said the "robust and thorough reporting process" of the Office of Discrimination and Harassment allowed administrators to identify a more serious problem within philosophy as soon as they did.
He said the reporting process allowed for a pattern to appear, which administrators were then able to recognize and address.
"Normally when we get isolated reports and we deal with individuals, that takes care of a problem," he said. "By the time (Arts and Sciences) Dean (Steven) Leigh got here (in 2012), we noticed that there was a sustained pattern, so we decided to do something about that. It culminated in us inviting (the committee) for an external review. We've been dealing with these cases until recently on an individual, case-by-case basis, and normally that's enough.
"This issue is more pervasive."
Majority of faculty 'good citizens'
Last April, CU asked the American Philosophical Association to conduct a review of the "climate for women in the department." The review itself was conducted in late September, and officials received the report in November.
Campus officials say they've spent the last two months reviewing the committee's recommendations and searching for an external candidate to take over as department chair.
Moore and other campus officials declined to say how many individual complainants came forward to the Office of Discrimination and Harassment.
"I will say the majority of folks in philosophy are good citizens and they're all good scholars," Moore said. "So this is not a throw-everybody-under-the-bus thing, but there is enough of a problem that it's tainting the culture in the department."
The reviewers point often to alcohol in the report, writing that there is an inappropriate expectation that graduate students and faculty members should socialize together after hours — for example, in bars during the evening.
"We found that there is excessive drinking when faculty and graduate students socialize," the reports' authors write.
The report makes little reference to inappropriate behavior involving undergraduate students, except that some male faculty members had reportedly been observed "ogling" female undergrads.
Most likely, because of the time graduate students spend as teaching assistants and advisees, they experienced or observed more of the inappropriate behavior. Moore said being a graduate student is a "lifestyle," and many work long hours.
"(With undergraduates), there's contact in classrooms and during office hours and hopefully some time outside those activities, but it's far more limited because undergraduates are taking four or five or six different courses a semester," Moore said, "whereas a grad student is focused on a specific scholarship problem and, in doing so, is under the tutelage of a faculty member."
Culture of bullying
A section within the report describes a culture of bullying in philosophy, though the reviewers do not reveal what kind of bullying they discovered, writing that they cannot discuss the behavior without revealing the perpetrators.
The philosophy department contains roughly 100 faculty members, staff members, graduate students and professors emeritus.
"We do believe that those engaged in this behavior are largely unaware that they are perceived as bullies," the report's authors write.
The three investigators comment often in the report on how the international and national reputation of the department, though high-ranking for its academics, is one of unfriendliness toward women.
Valerie Hardcastle, professor at the University of Cincinnati and the leader of the American Philosophical Association team that investigated CU, said most philosophers have a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of various departments.
"The philosophical world is actually pretty small," she said. "When you add up the number of Ph.D. programs, there's not that many and not that many philosophers out there, so the reality is most of us know most everyone in the discipline one way or another. Like a lot of academics, we engage in professional gossip. If you are active in the profession, you get a sense of all sorts of things."
While most of the report focuses on a culture of inappropriate behavior, it makes one reference to alleged sexual assault.
Campus officials said they could not comment on an alleged sexual assault within the department, nor could they discuss specific disciplinary measures, including termination, taken against members of the department for their actions, citing privacy in personnel matters.
"Anybody who was culpable for any violation of policy or anything even looking like sexual assault has been dealt with," Hilliard said. "I just can't go into any more specifics than that, I'm afraid."
'I think it needs to be public'
Leigh, the Arts and Sciences dean, said by making the report public and by being transparent, the university is giving Cowell, the new department chairman, the best chance to succeed.
CU paid $5,793 for the review with funds from the provost's office, the dean's office and the philosophy department.
"We have work to do in this department, and so bringing in (Cowell) to chair the department without any explanation or any background is not acceptable," Leigh said. "It doesn't put him in the circumstance that he needs to succeed.
"Frankly, we're a public university and we can't just sort of sink this report and not worry about it ever again. Looking at the report as an action plan, 'Here's what you need to do,' I think it needs to be public."
Boulder Faculty Assembly chairman Paul Chinowsky said making the report public also opens up windows for conversations in departments across the campus about what it means to be professional, how to create an appropriate department culture and other topics.
Chinowsky said the report will be a uniting factor among faculty members, who he expects will want to work together to make the campus safer and more welcoming to everyone. He added that he's never seen anything like the extent of inappropriate behavior spelled out in the report.
"This is the first time I have seen something taken to this level," Chinowsky said. "There are always rumors, innuendos and things happening that are just that: rumors, suggestions, innuendos. This is the first time I've seen this type of behavior documented to this extent."