Report finds pervasive sexual harassment in CU Boulder’s philosophy department

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Photo: CU Boulder Philosophy web page
Screenshot of the homepage of the Philosophy Department at the University of Coloado, Boulder on Feb. 6, 2014.

The authors of the report, which the University commissioned, point to 15 complaints from the department since 2007. The complaints were made to the University’s office of Discrimination and Harassment.

The report also alludes to one alleged sexual assault. CU has already removed the chair of the department, Graeme Forbes, and replaced him with linguistics professor Andy Cowell. The school has also suspended graduate admissions for the fall of 2014.

But the kind of behavior identified in the report isn't restricted to the CU campus. Interviews with several female philosophy professors around the country suggest this kind of behavior happens elsewhere.

Kate Norlock, chair of the philosophy department at Trent University in Ontario, Canada, pointed to a blog called “What’s it like to be a woman in philosophy?", which was launched to collect anonymous data on how women are doing in the profession and what obstacles they face.

Norlock sits on the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women, but she didn’t work on the CU report.

“The number of stories on being a woman in philosophy that revolve around sexual harassment and sexual assault suggest that it’s not just Colorado,” Norlock said.

Norlock praised Colorado for addressing the problem and urged other universities to do the same.

The report recommends changes beyond the ones the university has already made, including sexual harassment training and fewer department gatherings that involve drinking. The new chair, Andy Cowell, says he plans to implement many of the recommendations, but plans to meet with all the faculty in the department first.