Colorado Sociology Department Rebels Against Its Chair

The sociology department at the University of Colorado at Boulder has been thrown into upheaval partly as a result of dissatisfaction over how its chairwoman acted last fall against a professor who staged a classroom skit on prostitution.

The department’s faculty moved last month to replace its chairwoman, Joanne E. Belknap, who has responded to their complaints by announcing her intent to quit that leadership position and by suspending all formal department meetings. Her handling of concerns over the prostitution skit not only was cited by sociology professors seeking to oust her, but also drew criticism in a report presented on Thursday to the campus’s Faculty Assembly.

The report, by a committee established by the assembly to investigate the university’s response to the skit controversy, said Ms. Belknap and other administrators had failed to follow university procedures in ways that denied the professor who staged the skit her due-process rights. Their actions, the report said, harmed both academic freedom and the university’s reputation.

As often occurs with academic-department heads, Ms. Belknap ended up torn between the perceived interests of her institution’s administration and the demands of fellow faculty members. Administrators supported her decision to report Patricia A. Adler, the sociology professor who staged the skit, to the campus’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment for allegedly creating a hostile environment for students. <Read more.>

Via Peter Schmidt, The Chronicle of Higher Education.