Prior to yesterday's open letter from faculty elsewhere, faculty and students at the University of Miami sent me their own letter in support of the student complainant in the McGinn case, and asked me to share it with the professional community. Here it is:
An open letter of support and solidarity from members of the Department of Philosophy at University of Miami
The recent resignation of faculty member Colin McGinn has received a fair amount of attention within the discipline and beyond. As members of the University of Miami’s Department of Philosophy (including graduate students, alumni from the past three years, and faculty), we wish to come forward with a show of support for the graduate student who filed the initial complaint, and for the University’s handling of the situation. To our knowledge the graduate student in question acted in good faith and demonstrated bravery and care, not only for herself but also for others. Any attempts to impugn her character, philosophical ability, or motivations are entirely without merit and deserve categorical condemnation.
Universities have procedures and protocols in place for receiving the complaints of students in order to protect the rights and interests of those who are vulnerable. We have every reason to believe that the University of Miami investigated the matter in question carefully and judiciously. We urge those without access to all relevant details to show caution in speculating upon the situation.
As members of this department, we take the matter very seriously and support our colleague who filed the complaint. Whether or not any given complaint has merit is for the University to decide. But no student who files a complaint, regardless of whether the complaint is judged to be with merit or not, deserves retaliation and intimidation. Such behavior serves to silence others who would come forward, and undermines the policies and procedures the University of Miami has in place to protect individuals with limited power to protect themselves.
We stand in solidarity with the student in question. We can attest to her good character and superior philosophical abilities. We are proud to work alongside her and strongly condemn any attempt to cast aspersions on her character and abilities. Although these events have been difficult for all of us we are focusing on the silver lining: a necessary conversation has risen up around these events, and through that conversation we have the opportunity to improve the academic environment – not just here in Miami but in all philosophy departments.
We carefully considered whether we should sign our names to this letter or take a collective, yet anonymous, stand. We have chosen the latter. We did not want to pressure anyone into taking unknown risks, or cause unnecessary tension in our department. This was a difficult decision to reach, but our overarching interest is in supporting our colleague. Also, given the sensitivity of the issue and it being summer we were not able to contact every department member. As of now, 34 members of the University of Miami philosophy department (including graduate students/recently graduated students and faculty) have expressed their support of the contents of this letter, representing a clear majority from each of those groups.
It is my understanding that the 34 signatories do represent very substantial majorities of all groups, both the faculty and the PhD students, as well as a smaller number of recent alumni.