Saturday, September 5, 2015

Comments on Colgate Conversations

Alice Nakhimovsky

As part of the FSEM program this fall, all first year students, grouped by seminar, were given a booklet called “Colgate Conversations.” It comes from the University of Michigan, but the copy our students received bears Colgate’s name and must be considered an authorized guide to how we see ourselves. This booklet was used as a guideline for a protracted discussion about issues of race, gender, and sex. I don’t teach an FSEM, but a copy of the booklet was passed on to me. You can read the booklet here. (Access restricted to Colgate University accounts.)

I find “Colgate Conversations” to be very disturbing. Not to mince words, I think it is coercive and anti-intellectual. It is obsessed with sexual behavior, ethnicity, and (in an era when I would hope the agenda would be to bring people together), asks students to self-categorize as members of finely-tuned, if occasionally absurd, groups and sub-groups.

Here are some specific objections, in no particular order:
  • Students are directed to categorize themselves sexually. Do the compilers of this booklet not realize that some students are reserved and might find outing themselves a mortifying exercise? What about a student who has not had any sexual experience? What about a student who doesn’t feel attractive? What about a student who feels that he or she is being called upon to self-present in a particular way, because the booklet and Colgate are encouraging it? Isn’t there such a thing as privacy?

  •     Racial categories. Race is a social construct, and certainly a slippery one. But the booklet’s definition—that is to say, Colgate’s—was news to me. So: Latin@ (I’m copying the spelling) is a race. So, apparently, is Arab-American, although Jewish is an ethnicity. Chinese is an ethnicity. European-American is an ethnicity with a large catch-zone, unlike Guatemalan and Lebanese, which are stand-alone. Guatemalan and Lebanese? Is this shorthand for nation-state? Can’t be: if you look at the booklet, you’ll see that nation of origin is a different category. This is not the work of a first-year student, though it sure sounds like it. This is the voice of an academic institution. The same problems come up with the booklet’s definition of socioeconomic classes—for example, “ruling class.”

  •     “Preferred Gender Pronouns.” Since that’s the header, I guess these are the gender pronouns that Colgate prefers. As a humanities professor, I teach writing in every course, and after some coaching, I take off points for grammar errors. So I note with some consternation that Colgate prefers the third-person-singular construction “They like themself,” as in, I suppose, “Achilles likes themself.” Colgate also prefers, apparently, the pronouns “ze” and “hir,” as in: “I could tell that Socrates likes themself by the way ze agreed to drink hir hemlock.”

  •     Finally the section on “intergroup dialog” sounds to me like the hijacking of a reading and response section of a religious service. I quote, preserving the italics of the original: “Dialog calls for temporarily suspending one’s beliefs/Debate calls for investing whole-heartedly in one’s beliefs.” This is one of thirteen starkly contrasting pairs. Bad, bad, debate, and bad, bad professors who set up debates in their classes as a learning tool. But is this booklet really promoting dialog, or is it promoting a particular way of thinking? There is no place within the booklet that considers starting a dialog with the booklet itself.
At this point I feel obliged to say that I try in every way to promote a cosmopolitan campus that operates on the principles of tolerance and respect. But that’s not what I see here. I don’t even want to think of what we paid for it.

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Equity Grievance Policy and Freedom of Speech

Patrick Crotty
Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy

Ever since an international student accused of dating violence was allegedly held prisoner for several days by administrators and Campus Safety [1], there has been a great deal of debate at Colgate about whether the Equity Grievance Policy (EGP) adequately respects the due-process rights of those charged with violating it.  There has, so far, been much less attention paid to another aspect of the EGP that is at least as troubling:  it directly threatens the free-speech rights of both students and faculty.

There is significant national concern over the erosion of free speech on American college campuses [2], and there have been several recent, highly-publicized cases of students and professors' getting hauled before university administrators to answer for speech clearly protected by the First Amendment [3, 4].  Many of these cases involved overly broad anti-harassment policies that were too easily used to punish unpopular, controversial, or insensitive, but not harassing, speech.  As it is presently written, the EGP could one day be misused in the same way.  We needn't stop talking about the due-process issue, but we should start talking about this one too and demand that the EGP be revised to protect freedom of speech and expression to the maximum extent possible.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) is a nonpartisan organization which advocates for civil liberties in American academia [5].  (I have low-level involvement with FIRE; disclosure statement below.)  FIRE maintains a list of several hundred colleges and universities and rates each according to how well its official policies protect freedom of speech on campus [6].  The highest rating, Green, means that the policies are generally consistent with freedom of speech.  Yellow means the policies pose a mild to moderate risk to it (for example, because of inadequate definitions).  And Red, the lowest rating, means that the policies “clearly and substantially” violate freedom of speech.

Green ratings are, sadly, rare.  The ratings for the top-ranked liberal arts colleges are split about evenly between Yellow and Red [7].  Colgate's is Red [8].  The reason FIRE gives for our Red rating is Section III.B of the Equity Grievance Policy, which defines and prohibits “harassment.”

There is of course nothing inherently wrong with having a policy against harassment – indeed, as a college receiving federal funds, we are legally required to have one.  Moreover, as a private college, we are not legally required to respect the First Amendment rights of students and faculty.  But our fundamental purpose as an academic institution is to promote critical, well-informed thinking, for which – as famously argued by John Stuart Mill – maximum freedom of speech and expression are absolutely essential.  The term “harassment” should therefore be officially defined so as to restrict these as minimally as possible.

Fortunately, such a definition was provided some years ago by the Supreme Court (discussed more in [2]).  In its opinion for Davis v. Monroe County [Georgia] Board of Education (1999), a case involving the sexual harassment of an elementary school student by a classmate, the Court defined sexual harassment in an educational setting as:

“[B]ehavior. . .so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it denies its victims the equal access to education that Title IX is designed to protect.” [9]

The applicability of this formulation to racial, homophobic, and other forms of harassment is obvious, and many colleges and universities have adopted it for their own harassment policies.  But it is important to note that under the Davis standard, these elements – deliberate, severely offensive behavior targeted at specific individuals; pervasiveness (i.e., the practical inability of victims to avoid or ignore the offending behavior while still receiving the education they are entitled to); and objective offensiveness (meaning any “reasonable person” in the position of the victim would also be offended by the behavior) – must all be present for harassment or (equivalently) the creation of a hostile environment to take place.  Otherwise, it may be offensive, but it is not harassment by the legal definition.

The Equity Grievance Policy does not adequately distinguish harassment from merely offensive speech or behavior (referred to henceforth as just “offensive speech”).  More ominously, it explicitly allows for unspecified administrative action even when legally-defined harassment is not taking place.  While all of the Davis elements are mentioned in the policy [10], it also contains the following clause, the final sentence of which is specifically cited by FIRE:

“Colgate encourages individuals experiencing or witnessing offensive behavior to make a report as early as possible so as to have the situation corrected before it reaches the level of a hostile environment. Individuals with a concern need not worry about whether the behavior is sufficiently serious to constitute a hostile environment. Colgate may, and in the appropriate circumstances will, take action to respond to offensive behavior even if the behavior does not rise to the level of a hostile environment within the meaning of the law.”  (my emphasis)

While the policy does go on to say “[t]he fact that a person was personally offended by a statement or incident does not alone constitute a violation of this policy,” it is completely unclear what would constitute “appropriate circumstances,” what “action” Colgate might take, and whether the “response” would include any formal proceedings or disciplinary action against the offender.  The document outlining the Equity Grievance Process [11] does not provide obvious answers to these questions either.

The drafters of the Equity Grievance Policy may not have intended this clause as a loophole to allow the suppression of offensive but non-harassing speech, but in effect it is exactly that, as FIRE recognizes.  The mere fact that someone took offense won't necessarily get you in trouble, and presumably the offensive speech must be along the lines of the examples listed in the policy, e.g., “displaying racially, ethnically, religiously offensive pictures, symbols, cartoons, or graffiti.”  But otherwise, it is impossible to tell from the policy where the limits of acceptable speech lie.

What, for example, would happen to someone who was displaying a racially, ethnically, or religiously offensive picture or symbol in his dorm room or office, but wasn't actually harassing anyone per the legal definition?  In the absence of Davis-like standards, what determines the threshold at which the “totality of circumstances” such as “effect or impact on the individual and the learning community” results in administrative “correction”?  How would people displaying pictures or symbols that might be considered offensive be able to judge their risk of being charged under the EGP?

Without answers to such questions – and because policies outlast administrations, any answers must be clearly stated in or inferable from the policy itself – this clause erects a Kafkaesque disciplinary system in which anyone could report anyone else for, within very broad guidelines, being “offensive,” and the offender find him- or herself subject to official “correction” via processes, standards, and penalties that are largely left to the imagination.  The resulting threat to freedom of speech (as well as due process) at Colgate should be self-evident.  A policy so vague about what people are allowed to say deeply chills public discourse:  students and faculty are forced to walk on eggshells and sanitize every utterance for fear of crossing some invisible line and getting suspended, expelled, denied tenure, or fired.  Such an environment is toxic to the robust debate and free inquiry on which the intellectual growth of both students and professors depends.  Just the possibility of being summoned for a chat with a dean will intimidate many people into self-censorship.  And it is hardly difficult to imagine some future administration using this loophole to shut down “offensive” critics, or to enforce whatever political ideology is currently dominant.

After all the troubles of the past few years, why would we grant any administration this kind of seemingly arbitrary power to police our speech?

The only solution that is consistent with freedom of speech and Colgate's mission is to remove the problematic clause from the Equity Grievance Policy entirely, or at least have it state unambiguously that no one will face any kind of administrative intervention for anything they say as long as it doesn't fall into the very few categories of speech – harassment (as defined by the Supreme Court), making credible threats of violence or suicide, shouting down an invited speaker, etc.  – that directly violate someone else's legal rights or trigger the legal duty of the university to respond to imminent danger, or that directly and seriously disrupt Colgate's normal operations.  There should be a high bar for determining whether to proceed to initial hearings after a complaint.

Our campus climate is a major concern, and there are any number of non-coercive measures Colgate can, and should, take to improve it.  There's nothing wrong with encouraging people to be sensitive to other people's feelings, because offensive speech does carry undeniable emotional and social costs.  But forcing people to be sensitive to other people's feelings, especially at an academic institution that in principle places supreme value on the life of the mind, always costs a great deal more in the long run.

Disclosure and Disclaimer:

Before writing this post, I discussed the reasons for FIRE's Red free-speech rating for Colgate over email with Samantha Harris, FIRE's Director of Policy Research. The opinions expressed here should be taken as mine and not hers or FIRE's (nor Colgate's, nor the AAUP's). I am a faculty member of the FIRE student network, and in graduate school I was part of a group of student activists FIRE supported in a website censorship dispute with the administration. I have never held any kind of official position with FIRE, and I had no involvement with or input into its Red rating for Colgate.

References and Notes:

7. Of US News and World Report's top 26 national liberal arts colleges (including ties), 12 are rated Red and 11 Yellow by FIRE.  Three (Vassar and two service academies) are rated “exempt” because their policies explicitly prioritize civility and military discipline, respectively, over free speech.
10. (section B)

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Requiring “Diversity Statements” and Usurping Faculty Authority

Stanley C. Brubaker, Professor of Political Science

What follows is a letter written to Colgate’s outgoing and incoming leadership following the Faculty Meeting of April 27, 2015 at which outgoing Dean Doug Hicks defended the new policy of requiring that applicants for faculty positions must include a statement concerning “their approach to teaching and/or scholarship in a diverse and inclusive educational environment.” Weeks later, in response to widespread expressions of concern, the DAC and incoming Dean, agreed to make optional the reference to “scholarship.” Some thought the change made a substantial policy difference; others did not. My letter, however, concerns not the policy as such, but the procedure by which it was enacted. With the issue still unresolved and a new academic year commencing, I thought it appropriate at this time to make this document an “open letter.”

To: Doug Hicks, Dean of the Faculty and Provost; Jeff Herbst, President; Connie Harsh, Interim Dean of the Faculty and Provost-elect, Jill Harsin, Interim President-elect, Alan Cooper, Chair of the FAC

From: Stanley C. Brubaker, Professor of Political Science

Regarding: Boilerplate Diversity Language

Earlier this spring, it was announced that henceforth all ads for faculty should contain the following “boilerplate diversity” language:
Colgate strives to be a community supportive of diverse perspectives, identities, and ways of life. Candidates should describe in their cover letter [or other statement] their approach to teaching and/or scholarship in a diverse and inclusive educational environment.
As you know, this “boilerplate” has been a cause of concern to many, both because of the language itself and the process by which it has been imposed. For reasons developed below, I think the language should be debated before the Faculty this Fall. Hence this letter focuses only on the irregular and unprecedented procedure by which it has been asserted to be the policy of Colgate University.

At the last faculty meeting (April 27, 2015), Bob Turner, Acting President of the Colgate chapter of the AAUP, posed this question for Dean Hicks:
“The Faculty Handbook description of the Faculty Affairs Committee says that it shall propose to the Faculty policies and recommendations on policies on faculty appointments. Yet the FAC minutes of March 9, when the committee discussed the new diversity language in job ads, indicate that you said there that “boilerplate language in ads” was the purview of the DAC. The minutes go on to say “It would be appropriate for FAC to endorse this [diversity] language, but it is within the purview of FAAOC.” I see nothing in the Handbook description of FAAOC that suggests it can authorize new hiring policies, but the Handbook clearly indicates that the FAC should consider new hiring policies and then propose them to the Faculty. But the FAC minutes suggest that you believe it was unnecessary to bring this diversity language to the Faculty before making it mandatory in all job ads for next year. I don’t mind revealing that everyone who attended the AAUP caucus disagreed. Could you please explain your reasoning?”
Dean Hicks’s response focused on two points: a) a distinction between “faculty policies” (the province of FAC) and “recruitment of faculty” (the province of FAAOC; or perhaps FAAOC and DAC combined) and b) precedent (policy of this sort has always been adopted this way).

Neither of these responses is persuasive. First, the matter of precedent. Ever since the issue of affirmative action arose, the Colgate Faculty has been deeply involved with its recruitment strategy. Indeed, it was the Faculty who adopted Colgate’s initial affirmative action/recruitment plan in November 4, 1974. The Faculty continued to revisit the issue with resolutions revising the "specific goals and plans for action for recruiting, hiring, and retention of faculty, administration, and staff” in Meetings of November 6, 1978; November 2, 1981; April 9, 1984; April 3, 1989; and again in November 4, 1996. If there has been any change in Faculty responsibilities concerning recruitment of faculty, such has not been recorded in the Faculty Handbook. Nor does the Faculty Handbook note the adoption of any policy change regarding Affirmative Action recruitment that was not brought before the Faculty.*

What of the distinction between “faculty policies” and “recruitment of faculty”? As already indicated, this distinction has no basis in Colgate history. Nor is the distinction logical: "recruitment" will largely determine who the "faculty" is. Furthermore, even if, arguendo, we assume some historical and logical foundation for the distinction, we should recall just what are the responsibilities of the FAAOC and DAC regarding “recruitment of faculty.” As indicated in the Faculty Handbook and FAAOC’s title itself, that committee has responsibility for "overseeing faculty recruitment and hiring from the standpoint of Colgate's affirmative action program" (emphasis added). To "oversee" is not to create. The only semblance of a pretense that the adoption of this new “boilerplate” language could be "oversight" would be that it is a minor administrative tweaking of language already adopted by the faculty. Obviously such is not the case with this controversial policy. And what of the DAC? According to the Faculty Handbook, and as indicated by its title, the DAC "advises the Dean of the faculty on matters of academic administration such as academic programs and faculty staffing needs." And of course it is disingenuous to claim that although neither the FAAOC nor the DAC individually have responsibilities, through some magic of interpretive construction, together they can have responsibility. Finally, it can only be called a move of desperation to throw the FAC into the stew of pseudo-responsibility (FAAOC+DAC+FAC), since as Bob’s question reminds us, that committee’s responsibilities are to “propose to the Faculty policies and recommendations of policies on faculty appointments…." Because this boilerplate language was adopted contrary to Colgate procedures and Faculty prerogatives, I strongly urge that its operation be suspended—or at least made optional—until the matter can properly be presented before the Faculty this coming Fall.

* In search for precedent at the Faculty Meeting, the Dean traveled to the field of University Programs, urging that here too, committee consultation had served as an adequate substitute for Faculty approval. The inclusion of this language in nearly all faculty ads--that candidates will be expected to contribute to “all-university programs such as the Core curriculum”—actually cuts quite against the Dean’s argument. Our Core program and staffing needs, like our Affirmative Action policy, is something that has been repeatedly brought before the Faculty. In contrast, the “boilerplate diversity” language proceeds from the 21 Points, negotiated between the President/Deans and students who chose to hold a marathon sit-in and has never been presented as such to the Faculty, save for voluntary faculty workshops concerning diversity, under the rubric of “faculty development” (a part of Point 8).

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Useful Report Detailing the Structural Obstacles to Diversity/Inclusion at Colgate

Last semester, the Office of Equity and Diversity put together a report about the obstacles facing Colgate if we want this institution to become a genuinely inclusive place.  As a member of the Faculty Diversity Council, I had a chance to see this report and found it immensely useful in clarifying issues often invisible or opaque to faculty due to our position in the university structure.  It helped me understand why many good-intentioned efforts to promote diversity and inclusion seem to have little effect on the institution as a whole.  I have asked and obtained permission from the report’s authors, Lyn Rugg and Tamala Flack, to share this report here on the AAUP website.

NOTE - The report is accessible under FURTHER INFORMATION at the right side of the page using the link Barriers to Institution-Wide Diversity and Inclusion

Although I hope you read the piece in full, let me mention several issues that struck me.

·         Diversity initiatives are too narrowly focused.
o   A number of diversity initiatives have begun, some in response to last fall’s events and some predating them.  However, the vast majority of these initiatives have focused on supporting non-majority students, or helping faculty support those students.
o   Very few are designed to improve conditions for non-majority faculty (or staff). To quote the report, “Unfortunately, campus climate for faculty and staff remained largely absent from these discussions.”
o   In order to achieve truly campus-wide diversity and inclusion, initiatives must do much more.  For example, where are the initiatives to transform administrative leadership, examine how institutional support is distributed, or analyze our curriculum and pedagogy at a holistic level?

·         Colgate organizational structure is an obstacle to diversity and inclusion efforts.
o   Colgate’s organizational structure is divided into a number of semi-autonomous areas. 
o   Each distinct area manages and controls its diversity and inclusion efforts, and can opt in or out of initiatives without any external accountability.   
o   Each area may define diversity and inclusion and come up with its own measures of success and competence.
o   There is limited or no linkage between different areas’ diversity and inclusion efforts, leading to a lack of cohesion across the institution as well as much wasted effort.

·         Outdated Concepts of Prejudice and Discrimination
o   Too many people at Colgate, including those in leadership positions, are operating with an outdated idea of the way racism, sexism, homophobia, etc, operate today. They still believe that the problem is bad people doing bad things, overtly and intentionally.
o   Too many of our laws and policies are designed to deal only with overt and intentional acts of bias-motivated discrimination, harassment, or hostility.
o   Yet all the research (including the seminal research of former Colgate professor Jack Dovidio) shows that that those types of overt and intentional actions are not the most prevalent form of prejudice and discrimination today, though unfortunately they still occur.
o   Instead, bias and discrimination are manifested today in more subtle ways, when well-intentioned people (like myself) act on internalized prejudices and stereotypes we do not even know we have.  It happens when well-intentioned people (like myself) support certain ways of doing things which benefit some groups over others because they are the status quo or the “Colgate Way.”
o   Bias and discrimination happen not only when I treat certain types of people poorly, but also when I insist that other types of people could not possibly have engaged in discriminatory acts because “he/she is a good person.”
o   These forms of bias and discrimination are enormously damaging, but their effects emerge over time.  They often happen without hostile intention by the perpetrator, or with the intention hidden even from the perpetrator’s own self-awareness. This makes these incidents very difficult to prosecute under the current system.

Carolyn Hsu

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Corporatization of the Academy

Bob Turner
Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies
Over the past several years and as we begin the search process for a new president, many AAUP members have sounded an alarm about the apparent increase in the corporatization of higher education in general and here at Colgate. There is a thoughtful article from the March 2 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education on this topic, written by the president of Lawrence University. Here is a link to the article: 

Some of the comments on the Chronicle website are interesting, too.

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Join the Colgate Chapter of the
American Association of University Professors

Use the 2015 AAUP Membership Application link in the right column under "FURTHER INFORMATION".

Is Our Response to Title IX Racist?

By Anonymous

In response to the federal government’s requirement that universities be more proactive about sexual violence on campus, Colgate established the Equity Grievance Policy (EGP) under the direction of Associate Provost for Equity and Diversity Lyn Rugg. While having clear procedures in place for addressing incidents of sexual violence or harassment is a positive step forward, our two years of experience with the EGP raise serious concerns about how just how “equitable” it is; indeed, the numbers and the way in which the policy is implemented give grounds for thinking that our response to Title IX is racially biased.

At the September, 2014 faculty meeting, Rugg confirmed the fears many of us have had when she acknowledged that at least 60% of the EGP cases have been brought against minority men (that is, at least 4 out of the 7 EGP hearings which President Herbst reported had been held since the inception of the EGP in his all-campus email sent April 28, 2014). This is a worrying percentage given that men of color comprise only about 6% of the student body according to the demographic statistics on the Colgate website. Further, Rugg stated at the faculty meeting that 50% of those expelled through the EGP were minority men, specifically international students of color; once again, this percentage is much greater than the percentage of minority men on campus.

Why should faculty be concerned about the workings of the EGP?

First, the EGP is used for complaints against students, staff and faculty, so our interest in a fair and equitable process should be of concern at both the community and personal level.

And we also risk creating a campus that is less safe for women. When Title IX is applied unequally through overrepresentation of minority men, others may come to believe they can act with impunity; this is much more likely to exacerbate sexual violence than mitigate it.

Finally, if the disproportionality of minorities subjected to EGP proceedings continues, the EGP will end up reinforcing racial divisions on campus rather than doing anything to positively address them. Given the stated desire of the administration to use the EGP in its efforts to improve racial dynamics on campus, we cannot allow the EGP to be part of the problem.

How does EGP policy contribute to racial bias?

At the September faculty meeting, Rugg was pressed to explain the disproportionality of minority men subject to EGP hearings. Her responses warrant closer examination. The meeting minutes state, “Rugg noted that 1) Colgate can only move forward on complaints, and those that have been received have been moved through the EGP process; every case that has come forward has been handled seriously, without selectivity.”

Rugg’s comment does not acknowledge that her office exercises a good deal of discretion in terms of which reports are moved forward to an actual EGP hearing. It is instructive to compare the number of EGP hearings (7 total from January 2013 to April 2014 according to Herbst) to the number of incidents of sexual violence reported in the Campus Safety Annual Report in 2013 alone (2014 statistics have not been made public yet): 10 reports of incidents of sexual violence including 7 “forcible sexual offenses,” 2 for “stalking” and 1 for “dating violence.” In other words, if there are an estimated 10 reported incidents of sexual violence in 2014 (as in 2013) distributed equally across 2 academic semesters, then out of an estimated 15 incidents up to April 28 2014, only 7 resulted in EGP hearings. Therefore, the majority of reports of sexual violence do not end up in an EGP hearing, leaving us to wonder why those chosen to be moved forward are disproportionately against men of color.

Rugg was also questioned at the faculty meeting about how the policy of the university taking on the role of complainant and thereby acting as accuser, judge and jury can be made equitable. Rugg denied that there were any cases where the university has assumed the role of complainant, “In cases that have been heard, it has never happened that there has been no complainant.”

However, this assertion is contradicted by the documents made public through the lawsuit of “Dan,” an international student subjected to an EGP hearing who is now suing the university for discrimination and illegal imprisonment. [For the sake of the privacy of the students involved, pseudonyms are used here.] In court filings (available online), Colgate admits that it was the university who pursued charges against Dan in the absence of a complainant: “ADMIT Defendants TAYLOR and/or RUGG instructed Defendant BROGAN to pursue the allegations involving [“Jill”] even though [Jill] had not herself made the complaint.” There was a third party in the case, “Cathy,” who initially contacted Campus Safety stating her concern about an incident between Dan and Jill; however, Cathy had left Colgate by the time the EGP investigation was initiated, she is never referred to as a complainant in any of the court documents, and indeed is not mentioned by Colgate as having any further contact with the EGP beyond her initial emails. Therefore, in at least this case, it appears the administration took on the role of complainant against Dan.

The Dear Colleague Letter from the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), to which our EGP policy responds, is very specific about who can be called a “complainant” in a Title IX case: a complainant is the person who reports harassment and then consents to an investigation based on their report: “Schools should inform and obtain consent from the complainant before beginning an investigation.” If such consent is not obtained or, as in the case cited above, the student did not even make a complaint herself, then that person cannot be referred to as a “named complainant.”

According to OCR guidance, schools should be responding differently in a case where a victim comes forward to report sexual violence, consents to an investigation, and pursues the charges against an alleged perpetrator compared to when these criteria are not met. In the case of the former, the college is required to respond proactively through its processes designated for addressing sexual harassment under all circumstances.

In the latter situation, on the other hand, OCR specifies “if the complainant requests confidentiality or asks that the complaint not be pursued…the school should inform the complainant that its ability to respond may be limited.” Further, OCR is specific about when a university is required to address harassment in the absence of a complainant willing to pursue charges or in the case where a complainant requests anonymity, instructing schools to weigh such factors as “a history of arrests,” “the use of a weapon,” and “the age of the victim.” None of these criteria given by OCR are mentioned in our EGP policies.

Further, Rugg’s statement at the faculty meeting that “if the university has credible information of violation of EGP policy, it is required to investigate and adjudicate regardless of the wishes of the victim” contradicts OCR’s guidance that tells universities that when a complainant wants to remain anonymous or does not want to pursue charges against an alleged perpetrator, the university’s response is thereby “limited” and, further, in such a case “there are steps a school can take to limit the effects of the alleged sexual violence and prevent its recurrence without initiating formal action against the alleged perpetrator.” As mentioned above, OCR gives specific criteria for when a school’s Title IX obligations require it to override such a request by a victim and specifies that “these instances will be limited.” Further, OCR rightly points out that not respecting the wishes of a victim in terms of anonymity or pursuing disciplinary action “can have a chilling effect and discourage other students from reporting sexual violence.” Certainly, Rugg stating that the EGP will take action “regardless of the wishes of the victim” risks having that effect.

In Dan’s case, Jill states she was “put under pressure to provide a statement.” She goes on to say, “She [Brogan] did not give me the option to write it, she told me to provide her a statement.…I did not even know it would be presented at the hearing and used as evidence to reach a decision in the case.” These quotes come from Jill’s statement in support of Dan’s appeal, which is part of the lawsuit. As reported by the student, this action appears to violate OCR’s guidance that “To improve trust in the process for investigating sexual violence complaints, a school should notify students of the information that will be disclosed, to whom it will be disclosed, and why.”

Rather than being “limited” by the absence of a complainant, Colgate aggressively pursued the case against Dan, imposing the most severe penalty at each stage. While many more allegations of harsh treatment are part of the lawsuit, the list below only includes actions admitted by Colgate:
  • The EGP process was initiated when Cathy sent an email to Campus Safety that “alleged that during an argument, Dan had put his hands around her neck and pushed her against a wardrobe. She said that Dan had not squeezed her neck, did not leave any marks, and that she was not in any pain. Cathy claimed to be making this report a year after the alleged incident because she knew of a similar incident involving Dan and Jill. Cathy alleged that the incident had occurred more than two years before, in the beginning of 2011. Cathy alleged that Dan had pushed Jill, which resulted in her falling and accidently [emphasis added] hitting her head on a table. Cathy alleged that Jill received stitches in the emergency room as a result.”
  • A No-Contact Order was issued that neither Jill nor Cathy requested; indeed, Jill stated to Brogan that she “did not believe that Dan was a threat to her and that the no-contact order was unnecessary.”
  • Dan was placed on interim suspension (the absence of any current complaint about Dan calls into question why the most severe interim measure, suspension from campus and classes, was imposed);
  • Dan was kept at the Campus Safety office from 2:30pm until 10:00pm (7.5 hours!) where he was questioned;
  • Other students placed on interim suspension have been allowed to stay in a hotel;
  • Dan was escorted by Campus Safety to a small, isolated room in the basement of Curtis Hall and told he would not be allowed to go anywhere else until his hearing 10 days later; Campus Safety officers were posted outside the door 24 hours a day to  “monitor” him.  Federal judge Andrew Baxter's opinion notes the following: "The Plaintiff has stated at least a plausible claim for false imprisonment.";
  • Two requests by Dan and two by a faculty advisor for a short delay in the hearing were denied (according to EGP policy, delays may be granted for “compelling reasons” - Dan cited the confinement in Curtis basement and suffering harassment by Campus Safety officers when attempting to review the evidence against him among others);
  • The investigation was closed before Jill submitted her statement, yet this statement was distributed to the EGP hearing panel (raising concerns that OCR’s requirement that there be a “thorough investigation” was not met);
  • Brogan presented the case against Dan at the hearing; neither Jill nor Cathy testified.
  • The decision to expel Dan (the most severe sanction) was communicated to him within a couple hours after the hearing concluded;
  • Dean of the Faculty, Doug Hicks rejected the appeal for a new hearing outright despite Dan and Jill both citing multiple procedural errors and instances of bias and discrimination, and despite a policy in the student handbook that students have “freedom from disciplinary sanction except by due process, with avenues of recourse available when a student claims to have been subjected to pre-judicious, discriminatory, or capricious treatment;”
  • The one comparison case given by Hicks to justify that the sanction of expulsion was not overly severe Colgate now admits involved a case where “the expulsion resulted from accusations of sexual assault; that the women pursued the charges and participated in the hearings.” In contrast, Dan was expelled for dating violence, not rape, and the women neither pursued the charges nor participated in the hearings;
  • Despite Jill writing in her statement to Hicks, “I admit that I acted violently toward [Dan]; I hit him, bit him, scratched at him and kicked him,” she was never disciplined.
Once again, none of the actions on the list above have been contested by Colgate.

Given the aggressive prosecution of Dan that went far beyond what OCR requires and now involves allegations of criminal infractions by the university as a result of confining Dan in the basement, it is surprising that the university insists in its court filings that his case was a “purely internal investigation and disciplinary hearing as to whether he violated the University’s private code of conduct;” in other words, the allegations that resulted in Dan’s interim suspension, confinement, expulsion and denial of a worthy appeal did not even include conduct that the university believed could result in any criminal charge.

Kiese Laymon, a professor of English at Vassar College who gave a lecture at Colgate on February 5th, emphasized how racial power structures result in people of color being judged more harshly by disciplinary systems of all kinds; Laymon referred to this as “being born on probation” as a Black man.

These issues are clearly evident in Dan’s case. For example, Dan’s letter of interim suspension (included in an Affidavit submitted by Taylor) accuses Dan of “actions [which] have allegedly included, without limitation, striking and/or choking [emphasis added] each of the aforementioned students [Jill and Cathy].”  Further, Jill states in her letter to Hicks that “Val [Brogan] told me that [Cathy] said [Dan] had tried to choke her, which is absolutely false and I did not believe it when Val said that.”  (And why would the Title IX Investigator reveal to another student what she was told in a private email at all?) Contrast that with what Cathy actually said in her email (quoted above) in which she explicitly stated that Dan did not squeeze her neck and she was not in any pain. Why was this incident described so much more severely by EGP Investigator Brogan and EGP Chair Taylor than what had actually been reported by the student herself? The use of such exaggerated and inflammatory language appears to violate OCR’s standard that Title IX investigators be “impartial.”

Further, why would the EGP be so aggressive in its prosecution of a student in the absence of a complainant or any alleged criminal behavior? Was the other international student expelled through the EGP (the student whose photo was distributed over email last fall after he trespassed on campus following his expulsion) treated as harshly as Dan? Has a White domestic student ever been treated like this under similar circumstances? Or is the answer as the “concerned Black faculty” hypothesize in their “Colgate to Crow-gate” AAUP blogpost: “that the university is arguably building its reputation for making the campus safer on the backs of black and international males.”

How can we address racial bias in the EGP process?

Here is a list of corrective actions and policy changes that could help to change both the practices and the perceptions of the EGP on campus:

  1. We need absolute transparency about the demographics of Title IX reports to Campus Safety and EGP hearings; these should be reported in full every year in the same way that demographics of new hires, the student body etc. are reported.  
  2. Information about complainants in EGP hearings also needs to be reported, and the Title IX Coordinator must acknowledge when the university invokes its stated policy of acting as the complainant, along with specifically how the situation meets the criteria given by OCR for taking such action.
  3. There is currently nothing in the EGP policy that specifies how a complainant is to give consent for an investigation as required by OCR. This must be added.
  4. No one should be pressured to provide information to the Title IX Investigator or any other person in the Office of Equity and Diversity. Language must be added to our EGP policy that makes it absolutely clear that any information given is voluntary. Further, anyone who does make a statement must be informed how that statement will be used and they must have the right to withdraw a statement if they do not consent to such use.
  5. Any statements made by an alleged victim or witness about an EGP case and given to the hearing panel must be part of the investigation and thereby receive a “thorough” review.
  6. Those who participate in the EGP process must receive more training in the area of race along with the training they already receive focused on issues related to gender.
  7. Should any allegation of racist or xenophobic comments be substantiated (unfortunately, some of these have been alleged in the lawsuit), that person should no longer be permitted to participate in the EGP in any capacity.
  8. As Rugg’s term as Associate Provost for Equity and Diversity is coming to an end, the administration should appoint someone to this post who has the background and expertise to confront issues related to the intersection of race and gender who will therefore be proactive and effective in making sure we do not repeat the patterns seen thus far.
It goes without saying that the college must have the means to address and reduce sexual violence on campus, but how we implement such processes is of vital importance. Moving forward, we must honestly confront the impact of race on our EGP process and take the steps necessary to make the EGP actually equitable through increased transparency and accountability.

Echoing Brian Moore’s AAUP blog post, along with the suggested corrective actions, here, too, an apology is in order.

The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.  

Colgate AAUP Governance Changes

With Jill Harsin agreeing to become interim President of Colgate in July, the leadership of our local chapter of AAUP has changed. Following procedures set out in our bylaws, Bob Turner, who was to be Vice President starting this semester, has become President, and the Executive Committee will appoint a new Vice President. As announced previously, the Executive Council will collectively act as editors of the blog, sponsored by AAUP, for items of interest to the Colgate faculty.
AAUP will continue to hold caucuses before each month’s Faculty Meeting; the purpose of these caucuses is to discuss items on the Faculty Meeting agenda as well as any other topics that AAUP members may wish to bring up. AAUP will also continue to foster conversations among faculty members and between faculty members and others (especially administrators) about items of importance to the Colgate community. We intend to resume publication each semester of the Vox, a (probably electronic) newsletter consisting of articles on a selected theme. As always, we will remain vigilant regarding matters of academic freedom, the economic welfare of the Colgate faculty, and campus governance.
The current Executive Council consists of the Executive Committee—Bob Turner (President), Rick Geier (Secretary), Nina Moore (Treasurer), Peter Tagtmeyer (Liaison to Library Faculty, technical administrator of the blog), and Lenora Warren and Eddie Watkins (members at large)—as well as Connie Harsh (chair of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure) and Jeff Baldani (chair of Committee Z on Economic Status of the Faculty and Profession). (There are two other standing committees of the AAUP—Committee B on Professional Ethics and Committee C on Educational Policies—but they are currently dormant.)
Colgate’s AAUP chapter has provided an important service to Colgate faculty members and to the campus community at large, both recently and historically. We can do so because of our connection to the national AAUP and also because we represent the faculty as a whole. The latter claim is justified in part by the large percentage of Colgate faculty members who belong to the AAUP. If you are not yet a member, we strongly encourage you to join. The membership application form is posted on this website. Your local chapter will continue its recent practice of subsidizing new members by paying $50 towards the 2015 membership dues for new members.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Revised Editorial Policy

Revised editorial policy:

The mission of the Colgateaaup blog is to provide a space for debate, the expression of ideas, the raising of awareness, and the sharing of information—in short, to provide a forum for conversation among Colgate faculty.

·         Each post will now bear a disclaimer: “The above post does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the AAUP membership or that of its officers, nor does inclusion of the post on this website constitute an endorsement by the Colgate chapter of the AAUP.”    

·         We will expect that all who submit posts will sign them.  We will, however, consider petitions to publish anonymously on a case-by-case basis.

·         We will accept posts only from Colgate faculty members.  We will accept comments from outside, but also reserve the right to remove comments that are defamatory, insulting, or off-topic.

·         We will continue the blog’s commitment to the exercise of free speech by Colgate faculty.  Believing that vigorous exchanges of ideas are valuable, we will publish almost all submissions that are related to matters of interest to the faculty.  But we also will use editorial discretion to ask for revisions or to refuse posts that contain the following elements.
o   Personal attacks against an individual or group, as distinct from policy disagreements.
o   Reports of private conversations.  (Public statements made before a group are fair game.)
o   Demonstrably inaccurate statements of fact.

The emerging etiquette of blog writing calls for a poster to provide a link to any other blog that is cited.  Therefore, in the spirit of giving credit to others, and with the aim of providing access to the original material on which a poster comments, we ask that links to quoted websites or other documents be provided if at all possible.

Please direct all new posts to any member of the executive board:
Jeff Baldani
Rick Geier
Connie Harsh
Nina Moore
Peter Tagtmeyer
Bob Turner
Lenora Warren
Eddie Watkins