Sunday, April 13, 2014

Back to business...sort of--CU-Boulder philosophy department

"In wake of report, CU-Boulder philosophy department gathers to look ahead"

Outside facilitator to discuss climate with faculty


Sarah Kuta

April 11th. 2014

Boulder Daily Camera

Two months after the release of a divisive independent report about the University of Colorado's philosophy department, faculty members are meeting for a two-day retreat to talk about how to move forward.

The retreat, which began Friday on the Boulder campus, includes a discussion facilitated by C. Kristina Gunsalus, director of the National Center for Professional and Research Ethics at the University of Illinois.

In late January, the university administration released an independent report that found sexual harassment, bullying and other unprofessional sexualized behaviors within the philosophy department.

Three investigators with the American Philosophical Association's Committee on the Status of Women Site Visit Program authored the report, which led administrators to replace the chairman and suspend all graduate admissions into the department until at least 2015.

"The site visit report has brought up some areas for improvement, so now it's time to have the discussion on how exactly the faculty as a team and the department as a whole can achieve those goals," CU spokesman Ryan Huff said Friday.

The retreat follows the report's recommendation to ban alcohol at all department events, but sidesteps another recommendation that all official events be held during normal workday hours.

Near the end of the report, the authors described their concerns with a past "mountain event" retreat and plans for a future event.

"In light of this department's history, all events, including retreats, need to be held during business hours (9-5) and on campus or near campus in public venues," the report's authors wrote. "...Under no circumstances should this department (or any other) be organizing the social calendars of its members."

Off-site retreat

One half of the retreat will occur from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Hotel Boulderado, according to an email sent to faculty members.

Huff, who said the cost of the retreat wasn't readily available to him, said the report's recommendation does not apply to official department-wide events, such as the planned retreat this weekend.

He added that with the teaching schedules of faculty, it's difficult to get everyone together during the week for a two-day retreat.

"The report was focusing on unofficial, impromptu gatherings of small numbers of faculty and students," he said. "Those are the kinds of events that, especially with alcohol present, should not be taking place. However, the report is not focusing on the events that take place outside the 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday time frame that are official events with agendas with all the faculty present, with the department head present. That's what these events are."
Though the College of Arts and Sciences is paying for the retreat, no administrators will be present. In an email to the faculty, department chairman Andy Cowell said Gunsalus will not produce any written materials from the retreat, but will "discuss things" with Steven Leigh, dean of the college, "since he's paying the bills on this one."

Leigh declined to comment.

'A very strong department'

Since the report's release, Huff said many members of the department have attended bystander training and additional training about sexual harassment and discrimination. Huff said the department climate committee also has been meeting and discussing how to move forward after the site visit report's release.

"There certainly are various trainings either in progress or that will occur in the future to improve the climate and this retreat is really a chance to get everyone in one room and to really talk about how to improve the situation," Huff said.

Philosophy professor Michael Tooley said he's been optimistic about the department in recent weeks, adding that he expects some useful discussions to occur at the weekend retreat.

He said many faculty members have been meeting for lunch on a regular basis, which has helped to improve morale within the department.

Tooley also said several faculty members who had planned to leave the department are now being retained, and there's a possibility new faculty members may be added to philosophy in the future.

"I was really quite worried because a number of my colleagues applied for jobs elsewhere, so there was really a fear that we would lose people, but that hasn't happened," he said. "I think if we can get over that hurdle or two we'll continue to have a very strong department."

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