UPDATE: "Jane Brownstein" confesses in the comments that she is using a pseudonym and that she had misled me. I apologize to readers, but I usually do assume people are who they say they are when they write to me. While other readers shared some of these concerns, they did not want to be credited by name with the comments. In view of the fact that this forum has been co-opted by a pseudonym, I will permit others to comment pseudonymously, but will edit for relevance etc.
I've been sent, or have come across, various concerns over the last week, and I here reprint some representative ones, not because I agree with them(though I share some of the concerns articulated), but because they reflect a set of concerns that are clearly out there and that will affect the future viability of the site visit program (which Philosophy as a discipline needs) and deserve discussion. I have also heard already about one department where faculty want to cancel their site visit in the wake of the Colorado fiasco, which I view as a very bad sign. The APA can enter contracts with universities to maintain confidentiality; such contractual obligations can not override "freedom of information" or "open record" laws, but that was not the problem at Colorado. FOI requests are unlikely if the site visit is not already public knowledge, and the public relations fiasco in this case was due to the university's decision to broadcast the report.
A commenter, "Rita N", at another blog summed up the gist of a lot of the criticisms that have come my way, so I will quote it in lieu of several different e-mails:
Am I the only one who finds the spirit of the report somewhat chilling?
In themselves, many of the proposed steps may make sense. But when you put it all together: ban on alcohol, ban on socialising, ban on email communication, ban on meetings outside business hours, bystander training will encourage and enable people to report anyone who is perceived to engage in inappropriate behaviour, individuals must call out disrespectful comments and those called out should receive the correction without being defensive, and so on. This suggests a spirit of vigilance against anyone falling out of the line, a public shaming of those who do - this reminds me of certain things, and none of those things are good.
I was also wondering who will want to work or study at this department after all this.
Given the severity of the reported climate problems, it seems some of these remedial measures are surely unavoidable if there is to be a real change.
Reader J.W. Showalter sent me a lengthy set of criticisms and then created a blog, where he repeated them (which I linked to last week). I thought Mr. Showalter's strongest point was that some of the recommendations of the Site Visit committee did not sound like sensible "best practices" in all cases; but they may, again, be necessary (and ideally temporary) remedial measures in this case.
Finally, reader Jane Brownstein writes:
Those who applaud the APA committee and Colorado administration for taking these steps might well be applauding a one-time event, given how suicidal it seems to be for a department to ask for a site visit. I think what's needed here is not applause but an acknowledgment from the committee of how disastrous this has been and something to assure all other departments that they will never allow this to happen to any other department that brings them in. In addition, there is one point I haven't seen raised in discussions so far:
The site visit committee that went to Colorado had a very clear bias: all three of its members are proponents of feminist philosophy. According to their own websites, Valerie Hardcastle works on feminist philosophy of science, Peggy DesAutels' research is completely concerned with feminist ethics, and Carla Fehr works on feminist epistemology and philosophy of science and on feminist science studies. And as your blog has already noted, they inappropriately used the occasion of their site visit to blatantly ask that criticisms of their philosophical approaches be silenced and that attempts be made to indoctrinate critics into their own philosophical views and orientations.
The problem here goes much deeper than merely a blatant misuse of committee time and trust, however. The main difficulty here is one of bias in the work they were meant to do in Colorado. The CSW website boasts that "Those trained to be site visit team members are diverse with regard to gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and other social categories." However, they are clearly not diverse with regard to the most important factors of all: philosophical and political ideology. Consider a parallel: there's a concern that a department has been unfriendly to Christian students and the school decides to bring in a neutral committee to investigate and report its findings. What sane person would dream of selecting a committee consisting entirely of three people who have based their careers on the view that Christianity is under attack in the public sphere, and who are adept at finding anti-Christian bias everywhere?
By all means, there should be no obstacle to one committee member having such a view. But for balance, the committee must also have someone with the opposing view. The fact that the site visit committee at Colorado misused the occasion of its visit to make the ridiculous and inappropriate comment about feminist philosophy is not the main problem but a symptom. The CSW Site Visit Program website makes clear that, to become a team member, one needs three days' training, tenure in the profession, and "a demonstrated commitment to diversity through service work and/or research." It's this third condition that must be stricken or clarified, since as it stands it can be used to politicize the site visit teams. There are plenty who wish to end sexual harassment in the profession despite having a very low opinion of 'feminist philosophy': I am one of them. Departments bringing in a CSW team deserve to have at least one team member whose ideological commitments will not be furthered by making a finding against the department.
I think the analogy proposed to those "who are adept at finding anti-Christian bias everywhere" is unfair, but I think it is probably correct that site visit committees should be philosophically diverse and should steer clear of editorializing about "pluralism" and the like. But I do think the paramount issue is ensuring confidentiality going forward; as we learned, some members of the Colorado Department felt blind-sided by the publicity.
I am opening comments. Signed comments will be preferred, but since it turns out (see above) that "Jane Brownstein" is a pseudonym, I will permit others to comment pseudonymous. But stay on point: respond to the criticisms raised, contest them, agree with them, remain agnostic, whatever.