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University of Colorado-Boulder campus (Wikimedia Commons / Madhava 1947) University of Colorado-Boulder campus (Wikimedia Commons / Madhava 1947)  

CU-Boulder slammed for sexual harassment in its philosophy department

An independent report about the climate of sexual harassment in the philosophy department at a Colorado university had the chairman worried the department could be disbanded.

“Be aware that if this report leaks beyond the department and becomes a local, or worse, national, scandal, the continued existence of this department is improbable,” wrote Graeme Forbes in a November email to his University of Colorado-Boulder colleagues, according to the Daily Camera. Forbes has since been replaced as the philosophy chairman.

Forbes was worried about a damning report by the American Philosophical Association Committee on the Status of Women, which reached the “strong conclusion that the Department maintains an environment with unacceptable sexual harassment, inappropriate sexualized unprofessional behavior, and divisive uncivil behavior.”

“Members of most groups we talked to report directly observing inappropriate behavior,” the report continued. “This behavior has harmed men and women members of every stakeholder group in the Department.”

The report did not include details of individual incidents or say which faculty and staff were involved. But it gave the strong impression of boorish behavior that was often apparently fueled by alcohol at after-hours events and social gatherings. The authors of the report wrote that future department functions should be conducted during business hours and not include alcohol or socializing in the evenings, going so far as to highlight “no alcohol served at any events” in bold lettering.

An off-campus retreat seems to have been particularly appalling to the authors although, again, they did not provide details of what may have occurred. But they felt strongly enough about the inappropriate behavior displayed that they wrote that they were “floored” that the department was planning another retreat this spring.

“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,” they wrote.

“The proposed departmental spring retreat is an exemplar for a family-unfriendly event,” the report continued (original emphasis). “Under no circumstances should this department (or any other) be organizing the social calendars of its members. Under no circumstances should this department sponsor or be affiliated in any way with an event that includes alcohol.”

Despite Forbes’ intention to keep the report quiet, the university released it publicly on Friday. Not only did CU administrators remove Forbes, they also suspended grad student admissions to the program until at least 2015. Officials told the Daily Camera that they couldn’t discuss what other disciplinary actions there might have been, including whether anyone was fired because of the report.

“I can assure you that anyone who has violated university rules has been held accountable under university policies,” CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard told the paper.

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